For immediate release
Chicago-area media strategist and nonprofit executive Solomon Lieberman has been hired as the new CEO and publisher of the Reader Institute for Community Journalism (RICJ), which operates the 51-year-old newspaper, Chicago Reader. He will take the reins mid-February from Tracy Baim, who announced her intent to leave last summer.
Lieberman, who has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, most recently worked as founding executive director of the Institute for Political Innovation, a national think tank that researched and advocated for nonpartisan election reform. Previously, he served in several capacities at the nonprofit Better Government Association in Chicago, most recently as vice president of strategy and civic engagement. He has a bachelor’s of arts in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“We are very excited about the media savvy, passion, and business-development acumen that Solomon brings to this job,” RICJ board chair Eileen Rhodes said. “He has worked in nonprofit Chicago journalism, and built a successful nonpartisan organization with national reach. Our hope is that he continues to grow the RICJ nonprofit, strengthening the infrastructure needed to lead this legacy newspaper for the next fifty years.”
“I keep pinching myself,” Lieberman said. “I get to follow Tracy Baim’s lead, serve a beautiful, interdependent community of makers, members, readers, leaders, business owners and donors, and support community journalism at its finest.”
The nationwide six-month search for the leader of RICJ was conducted by the Morten Group, LLC. The board of directors of RICJ interviewed the top candidates, and made the final decision. Morten Group, a national consulting firm based in Chicago, focuses on executive placement and transitions, and racial equity integration and strategic planning.
“The past four years have been more than challenging,” said Baim. “When it became independent from the Sun-Times, we first had to rebuild the business side of the organization. The next challenge was surviving during the early phase of the COVID pandemic, and most recently, in May 2022, we were finally able to obtain full nonprofit independence. Now it’s time for the next phase, bringing in more resources to stabilize and thrive. I am excited for what Solomon will bring to this equation. I am also very confident in the incredible team we have built at RICJ and our Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA) project. I am proud of the work I have done to build both the Reader and our local media ecosystem, and I plan to continue to advocate for community media.”
“We can’t thank Tracy enough for her passion and dedication to saving the Chicago Reader—several times over the past four and a half years,” said Rhodes. “Tracy, who has been doing community journalism for 39 years, including as co-founder of Windy City Times, was the right person at the right time. I have been so happy to work by her side, as board treasurer and then chair, as we met the incredibly difficult challenges of keeping the Reader alive.”
Since Baim took over as publisher of the Chicago Reader in 2018, the organization has moved to strengthen its infrastructure and has diversified its revenues, distribution, leadership, and staff. It has tripled in revenue, more than doubled its number of employees, and has expanded its print and online readership. In 2018, there was one person of color on the team. Current leadership consists of 57 percent people of color, 57 percent LGBTQ+, 15 percent disabled, and 86 percent female, nonbinary, or trans. Of the overall staff, 47 percent are people of color, 33 percent LGBTQ, 8 percent disabled, and 67 percent female, nonbinary, or trans.