I wonder if Tracy Baim knows what a difference she's made in my life.
Tracy gave me opportunities at the time I needed them, and those opportunities have had great significance for my journalism career.
I started working for Outlines ( later to acquire Windy City Times and take over the name ) and Nightlines as a freelancer in 1992. I was between jobs and looking to increase and diversify my clip file. I had been a reporter and editor for a couple of daily newspapers in downstate Illinois, and in Chicago I had worked for a specialized financial trade publication and for a reference book publisher. For the dailies, I had covered a little bit of everythingpolitics, business, entertainmentbut when I went job-hunting, it seemed like prospective employers just looked at the financial publication and rejected me out of hand for anything else. A career counselor even said she wished I could get it off my rÃ©sumÃ©like, duh, no, I worked there seven years; that's an idiotic suggestion.
So I had to prove I could write about other things, even though I felt I shouldn't have to, because I already had extensive and diverse experience. But I knew people who'd had good experiences with Tracy, and as a regular reader of Outlines and Nightlines, I knew they were high-quality publications. And I was committed to LGBTQ+ equality and LGBTQ+ culture. So in the summer of 1992, Tracy took me on as a freelancer. I wrote mainly about film and theater, doing both reviews and interviews. One of my first interviews was with Gregg Araki, who was promoting The Living End. I didn't realize then he would become a lion of the New Queer Cinema.
In 1993 I got a job doing public relations and fundraising for Chicago House, an AIDS service organization where I had volunteered for several years. That kept me too busy to work much for Tracy. I had loved being a Chicago House volunteer and cherish memories of that experience to this day, but being a staff member there was a far different situation and extremely stressful, so when I had a chance to go back into publishing at the start of 1994 I jumped at it. The guy who had run the reference book company I'd worked for was starting a new one; would I like to join him as an editor? I would and did.
That worked out well for a while, and it left me some time to freelance, including an article for the first issue of Clout, Tracy's new business publication, in the spring of 1995. Then that summer, things blew up at the reference book company; the boss wasn't satisfied with my performance, even though I worked extremely hard, and frankly, there was no way to produce the books on schedule and maintain quality with the meager resources we had. Plus I was trying to wrangle dozens of freelancers who often missed deadlines or didn't turn in their assignments at all. But at the time I got fired, I felt like a total screw-up and that no one else would ever hire me.
Tracy came to my rescue. Shortly before everything went bad at the book publisher, she had asked if I wanted to come on as a full-time reporter for Outlines, Nightlines, Clout, and whatever other publications she might start ( Blacklines was in the future ). I said no then, but after my firing I called her back and said yes.
The job was a wonderful experience, even though there were some tense times worrying about finances or whether I would get in the middle of a fight between factions in the Chicago LGBTQ+ activist community. I got to interview fantastic people such as the great actor Sir Ian McKellen, film directors Marleen Gorris and Patricia Rozema, Frasier star Dan Butler, playwright Paul Rudnick, theater director Frank Galati, choreographer Bill T. Jones, and more. I covered local politicians such as Larry McKeon, the first out gay state legislator in Illinois, and activists including Pat Logue, Rick Garcia, Vernita Gray, and Renee Hanover. And I got to report on the 1996 Democratic National Convention, a highlight of my life.
My coworkers were super. Tracy was a dynamo, and a fair and supportive boss. Terri Klinsky, sales rep and now publisher, was funny and delightful. Cathy Seabaugh, who split her time between editorial and advertising, was a sweetheart. So was Jean Albright, Tracy's life partner, who handled circulation and many other tasks. And late in my tenure, Andrew Davis, a smart and extremely nice guy with whom I'd volunteered at Chicago House, started writing for our publications. He ended up rising to executive editor.
I left at the end of 1996, mostly due to financial worries ( although I should have known Tracy would persevere ), so I started 1997 at another trade publication, this one on the credit card industry. I regretted the move but oncecontinuously. But later in the year, my sister, who still lived in our hometown of Galesburg, Ill., and was considering moving to Chicago, suggested the alternative plan that we move together to Los Angeles, as her twin daughters had been recruited for jobs near there and she had an empty nest ( she was widowed, and one other daughter was living in Europe at the time ). So I applied to The Advocate, based in L.A., got an offer, and off we went.
I have now been at The Advocate for 23 years, doing copy editing, fact checking, and, for the past decade or so, a lot of writing, and this year I got the title of senior politics editor in addition to copy chief. I've also worked on whatever else our parent company owned at the timeOut, Alyson Books, erotic mags, etc. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten hired at The Advocate if not for my experience with Outlines and Tracy's other publications. So I am ever grateful for the opportunities I had there, and I am glad to have stayed friends with my colleagues from those times. As Windy City Times goes to digital-only, which is the wave of the future, I wish everyone well. I think WCT will be an important voice for years to come.