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Tracy Baim and the Windy City Times

Baim

 

 

In September 1985, Tracy Baim and three colleagues founded the Windy City Times, a weekly LGBT print newspaper, to reach communities in the Chicago area. The paper is also online and uses social media to reach a national audience.

In the mid ’80s, conversation surrounding the LGBT community was closeted and a sensitive topic. However, Baim and her team felt it was a great time to begin the publication of the Windy City Times.

After graduating college in 1984, Baim, who was openly gay understood that there were very few openly gay journalists working in mainstream media. The reality was, in various types of media, being gay was viewed as more of an issue than a lifestyle.

Baim credits the advice of her mother for much of her success with the Windy City Times. Her mother worked in journalism and warned Baim of the difficulty of being a woman, let alone gay, in the field of journalism. In addition to loads of motherly advice, she also offered her daughter leads for job openings.

Post-graduation, using her education in writing, her talent in photography, and the ability to use typesetting machines, she landed her first job working with the Gay Life newspaper. Baim was a quick study and became managing editor in just one year.

Community newspaper positions are complete with attrition, the pay is bad, the hours are horrible, and if you don’t really love it, you leave.

Nonetheless, leaving was not on Baim’s agenda, and instead, she joined forces with potential buyers of the Gay Life Newspaper. Although the deal plummeted, ultimately, it resulted in the birth of Windy City Times where she holds the titles of founding and managing editor.

Baim says that the LGBT community has grown and expanded in many ways, gaining more acceptance than in times past, but she still experiences a great deal of pressure from outside forces such as politicians and other trans-phobic issues.

Her efforts have proven to be a valuable contribution to society and pushes her to continue publishing Windy City Times to shine a positive light on many well deserving individuals within the LGBT community.

The newspaper covers any topic that intersects with the LGBT lifestyle on a local level. Baim feels it is essential that her print newspaper caters to LGBT issues in her local community. Online, the Windy City Times covers national and international LGBT news.

The topics include a wide range of issues that strive to show the positives within the community, but, like any media publication, it also covers some of the drama that takes place within localities.

With the help of Windy City Times, the LGBT community has a strong voice in Chicago’s intermediate society, but that does not mean that non-LGBT issues are ignored. The newspaper is inclusive and covers all concerns with an emphasis on the values and interest of the readers of the paper.

LGBT issues intersect with almost every issue in life, such as housing and crime, and we want to make sure our focus is not always 100% purely LGBT subjects.” Said Baim. She went on to say, “Our readers don’t only care about those issues in their lives, they deal with more complex issues as human beings period.

Baim explained that one of the more significant issues the paper covers is youth homelessness because as much as 20 percent of the homeless community identify as LGBT. However, she hopes the articles help all youth.

The Windy City Times team is small with less than ten employees. That affords the paper the ability to pay closer attention to some of the core matters categorized as breaking news, events, and issues. Journalists can do a little digging when it comes to breaking story and can report before any of the mainstream news outlets have a chance.

In addition to the core news streaming from the LGBT community, the paper also focuses on the entertainment side and covers many LGBT plays or productions performed at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. Covering both entertainment and news attracts a diverse pool of readers.

For Baim, some of the most meaningful work for her is news. She discussed how the Windy City Times broke a story regarding the Health and Human Services Department nationally censoring LGBT panel presentations that were submitted for a homeless youth conference in Kansas City. Windy City Times was the first to break the story by using local connections, and the story went national.

Windy City Times circulates 9,000 print newspapers every week to 400 distribution outlets in the city and suburbs of Chicago. The paper is distributed in Oak Park, Hyde Park, Calumet City, Beverly, Pilsen, and shipped every Wednesday to outlying suburbs.

Interested consumers outside of these locations can access the PDF version. Every issue is available and free to download on the paper’s website. The online newspaper attracts 30,000 viewers each week.

The paper has been online since 1994 and was one of the first print newspapers to be online. Back then, the text was dominant, and there was little imagery. Today we have evolved, using lots of images and putting our articles on social media applications like Instagram and Facebook.

A portion of the online viewers come from the monthly youth columnists. Youth columnists are paid $50 a month. Also, the paper uses freelance journalists, who also have the opportunity to write and publish articles.

Another positive that makes Windy City Times unique is the fact that all members of the production team work from home. As Baim puts it, “If you don’t meet your deadline on time, I will still have knowledge that your deadline was not made on time, regardless of location.”

Previously, the paper maintained an office but soon realized that it was more economical not being tied to a desk. Communication through email and phone is the glue that helps the Windy City Times run smoothly.

Baim sees the creation of Windy City Times as a transformative time in her life when she did not have to compromise her truth to rise as the successful journalist she dreamed of becoming.

By Alexandria Martin
Edited by Laurel Fee

Source:

Interview: Tracy Baim; November 16, 2017

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Staff Photographer Devin Jackson

 

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