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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. It is a weekly LGBT print newspaper, which also uses social media to reach communities in the Chicago area.  At that time, the conversation surrounding the LGBT community was sensitive and closeted.  However, Baim and her team found this to be a great time for the production of the Windy City Times.

After graduating college in 1984, I was openly gay and there were very few openly gay journalists working in mainstream media.

This was the reality in various types of media. It was viewed as more of an issue than a way of life.

Baim credited the advice of her mother for the success she found 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.  In addition to loads of advice, she also gave her daughter leads to job openings, such as working with the Gay Life newspaper.  This was Baim’s first journalism opportunity post-graduation.

Being an openly gay woman in the early ’80s made her realize that she had to find her voice in a room where few wanted to listen. Baim understood she needed to be sharp to be successful.

Baim was quick on her feet and able to use the trade she learned in college. She worked with typesetting machines, which helped her gain employment with the Gay Life newspaper. The ability to work these machines, along with talent in photography and writing, allowed Baim to move on to become managing editor after a year. These skills showed that Baim was more than the labels society placed on her.  Her work would prove to be a valuable contribution to society.

There is always attrition in community newspapers. The pay is bad, the hours are horrible and if you don’t really love it, you leave.

Nonetheless, leaving was not on her agenda. Baim pressed forward to join forces with potential buyers of Gay Life. Although the deal plummeted, it resulted in the birth of  Windy City Times. She said this was a tough choice to make, however, she now holds the titles of founding and managing editor.

When it comes to working with Windy City Times, Baim experiences a great deal of pressure from the outside forces such as politicians and other trans-phobic issues.  The LGBT community has grown and expanded in many ways and has gained more acceptance than in times past.

Even with these things, the lowest I have ever felt, in connection with the community, is when people are fighting one another and do bad to their own. However, I think these issues occur within every community.

This pushes Baim to continue the work she does with the Windy City Times. She is shining a positive light on many well deserving individuals within the LGBT community.

The most valuable advice Baim has to offer to up-and-coming journalists is to be well rounded. Success in the field exceeds the ability to write or operate a piece of machinery. The most valuable journalists have skills that allow them to be qualified for any position they could ever want with within the field and beyond. A journalist should continuously ask themselves, “What am I doing that is making me the most marketable employee I could be?”

The newspaper covers any topic that intersects with LGBT locally. Online, we cover national and international. We chose to do this because you can get the international news so quickly that we wanted to cater more to LGBT issues that are more local.

The topics range from broad to narrow and strive to show the positives within the community. Much like any media publication, it has to also cover some of the drama that takes place within localities.  With the help of Windy City Times, the LGBT community is able to have a strong voice in Chicago’s intermediate society.

This does not mean that non-LGBT issues are ignored. All concerns are covered due to the inclusivity of the newspaper. Baim ensures that the paper values the readers’ interests.

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 issues. Our readers don’t only care about those issues in their lives, they deal with more complex issues as human beings period.

One of the bigger issues that we cover is youth homelessness. That’s because we know that more than 20 percent of the homeless community identify as LGBT. However, the things we cover, we hope helps all youth.

The Windy City Times team is small, with less than 10 employees, and has the ability to pay closer attention to some of the core matters categorized as breaking news, events, and issues. This allows them to do a little digging when it comes to breaking a story before any of the mainstream news outlets have a chance.

On top of the core news streaming from the LGBT community, we also focus on the entertainment side and cover LGBT plays or productions at the Goodman Theater. That keeps a balance of diversity in our audiences.

For Baim, some of the most meaningful work for her is news. She discussed how, in November, 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. National and locally broken stories are dispersed over the 400 distribution outlets in the city and suburbs.

Roughly, downtown there are two different routes, and we have some papers in those combined boxes. We distribute to Oak Park, Hyde Park, Calumet City, Beverly, Pilsen, and for really far suburbs we ship every Wednesday.

If these locations are not accessible for interested consumers, the PDF version of each issue is available for free download on the paper’s website.  The online paper is accumulating 30,000 viewers a week, compared to the 9,000 print newspapers distributed each week.

A portion of the viewers come from the monthly youth columnists. Youth columnists are paid $50 a month, in addition to other journalists, who also have the opportunity to write articles.

We have been online since 1994 and were one of the first print newspapers to be online. Back then, the text was heavy and not a lot of imagery. Now we have evolved into getting our articles on social media apps such as Instagram and Facebook.

Something 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.”

In the past, they had 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 Windy City Times creation as a transformative time in her life. She did not have to compromise her truth in order to rise as the successful journalist she dreamed of becoming.

By Alexandria Martin
Edited by Jeanette Smith

Source:

Interview: Tracy Baim; November 16, 2017

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Staff Photographer Devin Jackson

 

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