Forty years ago, when this magazine emerged from the joined programming guides of WFMT radio and WTTW TV, the economy was stumbling along and unemployment had hit a recent high (5.8 percent). The country had grown frustrated with a war that many thought misguided. The Bears were trying to persuade skeptical fans that the team had turned a corner (it hadn’t). Chicagoans ate some of the best ribs in town, if not the country, at Twin Anchors on Sedgwick. The city was still three years away from a local newscast led by Bill and Walter, but, of course, a man named Daley occupied the fifth floor of City Hall.
Because we live in an era when news and observations arrive with the speed and racket of a string of exploding firecrackers, it’s helpful to recall that most forms of human endeavor tend to run in cycles. We may feel as if our world is traveling at an ever-accelerating rate, but often enough we end up at about the same spot. For that reason, Chicago’s editors thought the moment right to pause, take a deep breath, and catalog some of the reasons we love this place that is our home. (And here we must give an appreciative nod to our city magazine cousin, New York, which has masterfully applied this sort of celebratory feature to its hometown.)
We think you will find that the result is one of the best issues of Chicago ever published—smart, innovative, a pleasure to read and to look at. Credit goes to a portfolio of contributors, identified below, but the two impresarios of 40 Reasons to Love Chicago deserve special recognition: senior editor Cassie Walker, who helped conceive and marshal the varied items, and art director Jennifer Moore, who oversaw the lovely presentation. Jennifer also advanced the idea of asking five designers and design teams to create possible covers for this celebratory issue. In the end, we selected the cover by John Solimine of Spike Press, but each of the contenders, shown at right, caught something of the spirit of the moment and the magazine.
We settled on 40 reasons because that number represents the particular milestone the magazine is passing. But we could have singled out many, many more—which probably helps explain why we are undaunted about moving into our 41st year and beyond. We hope you will stay with us.
Gina Bazer is a senior editor at Chicago Home + Garden, Chicago’s sister publication.
Mark Bazer hosts The Interview Show, a humorous monthly talk show at The Hideout, and writes a syndicated column for Tribune Media Services.
Chris Benson is an associate professor of African American studies and journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For this issue, he researched the degrees of separation between the average Chicagoan and Obama.
David Bernstein is a senior editor at Chicago, where he focuses on city politics. His writing has been featured in the anthologies Best of Technology Writing 2006 and Best American Crime Reporting 2007.
Jeremy Bolen, a freelance photographer, currently has work displayed on the Chicago Project, part of the Catherine Edelman Gallery’s online gallery.
Robert Buscemi, a comedian, was named the best standup act of 2009 by the Chicago Reader. His new CD, Palpable, is available on iTunes.
Taylor Castle is a freelance photographer. For this issue, he shot a model dressed head to toe in Chicago designers.
Marcia Froelke Coburn, a senior editor at Chicago, profiled the former White House social secretary and current CEO of Johnson Publishing, Desirée Rogers, in our November 2010 issue (Her Next Act).
Sarah Collins is a freelance writer. In September, she interviewed the author Laura Caldwell for Chicago.
Elizabeth Crane is the author of three collections of short stories, most recently You Must Be This Happy to Enter. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, and misses Chicago dearly.
Amalie Drury writes Chicago’s nightlife column (Cheers) and blog (The Chaser). Her libation of choice is Kentucky bourbon.
Roger Ebert is a Pulitzer Prize–winning film critic. He returns to WTTW, where he made his television debut with Gene Siskel in 1975, when his new weekly review show, Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies, launches in January.
Jonathan Eig, a former executive editor at Chicago, is the author of three books, most recently Get Capone, which was excerpted in our May 2010 issue.
Reg Gibbons is a poet, fiction writer, translator, literary critic, artist, and professor at Northwestern University. His book of poems Creatures of a Day was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award. His most recent work, Slow Trains Overhead: Chicago Poems and Stories, was published in 2010.
Mark Guarino is a staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor, where he covers the Midwest. He is a frequent Chicago contributor, covering the local music scene.
Chris Guillen is a Chicago-area wedding and portrait photographer. This month, he snapped iPhone photos of Forest Park, the neighborhood where his studio is located.
Noah Isackson is a contributing editor to Chicago. He has been writing for the magazine since 2002.
Geoffrey Johnson is a Chicago senior editor. In our October 2010 issue, he compiled a list of Chicago’s 40 most architecturally significant structures (“Edifice Rex,” Top 40).
Esther Kang, Chicago’s web editor, produced anniversary-related multimedia for chicagomag.com and interviewed observers of Mayor Daley about his Chicago legacy.
Nathan Kirkman is a contributing photographer for Wired.
Anna Knott is a contributing photographer at Chicago. She regularly shoots dining stories, including last month’s Mexican food feature (Mextravaganza!).
Andreas E. G. Larsson is a portrait and interior photographer who is currently collaborating with the MAS Studio founder, Iker Gil, on a project documenting the residents of Marina City.
Kate Leahy coauthored the award-winning cookbook A16: Food + Wine. She is currently working with the chef Paul Virant on a cookbook about preserved foods.
Billy Lombardo is a teacher at the Latin School of Chicago and the cofounder and managing editor of Polyphony H.S., an international student-run literary magazine for high-school writers. His most recent novel, The Man with Two Arms, was published earlier this year.
Megan Lovejoy is the magazine’s photo coordinator and researcher. She started assigning photographers in June for the anniversary issue.
Jenna Marotta is a journalist and improviser. As an NYU student, she interned for two seasons at Saturday Night Live.
Kevin McKeough, the magazine’s contributing critic for popular music since 1997, is a lifelong and frequently exasperated White Sox fan. He also writes regularly for the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.
Joe Meno is the author of several award-winning novels, short stories, and plays. His latest theatrical production, Star Witness, debuts in March at the House Theatre.
Jennifer Moore is Chicago’s art director. She spearheaded the magazine’s redesign that debuts this month. She also styled and constructed the set for the holiday gift guide.
Adam Moroschan is the associate art director at Chicago Home + Garden. He facilitated our web collaboration with the Neo-Futurists.
The Neo-Futurists have written 7,000 scripts over 22 years to fuel their long-running show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. For the magazine’s 40th anniversary, 21 performers contributed to a poignant short play, A Neo-Futurist Map of Subjectively Important Chicago Landmarks (in Which the Word “Subjectively” Means “Specific and Personal”).
Nora O’Donnell is an associate editor at Chicago and the managing editor of its fashion supplements. She also covers the city’s classical music scene.
Carlos Javier Ortiz was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Chicago. He worked at a traveling carnival as a teen to raise money for his first camera and college tuition. He is currently working on a documentary, Too Young to Die, about youth violence in the United States and Central America.
Jan Parr is the editor of Chicago Home + Garden. She has also written children’s books and lectured at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
Jonathan Pearson, a London-based photo illustrator, turned Oprah into Nate Berkus before our very eyes for this issue.
Debra Pickett published her first article in Chicago in 2000, a story about her life as a single in the city. Since then, she has married and become the mother of three boys. She is working on her first novel.
Jay Pridmore writes about architecture for Chicago, as well as for Architectural Digest, Dwell, and others.
Ryan Robinson has been shooting for Chicago since 2005. This month, he created a video for chicagomag.com that showcases the Neo-Futurists cast.
Jeff Ruby, Chicago’s chief dining critic, has been on staff since 1997. He has also written more than 100 columns for the back page, where this month he details his favorite moments from the magazine’s history.
Josh Schollmeyer is a senior editor at Playboy and a frequent contributor to Chicago. He last wrote about Doug Glanville, the former Cub and New York Times columnist (“Man of Letters,” Sports, May 2010).
Sergio Silva is a Chicago-based freelance photographer, musician, and aspiring filmmaker.
Christopher and Kathleen Sleboda, the husband-and-wife duo behind Gluekit, have created illustrations, graphics, and lettering for Esquire, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone.
Bryan Smith has been Chicago’s writer-at-large since 2003. His most recent article, Noah’s Arc (November 2010), profiled the rising Bulls star Joakim Noah.
Chris Strong is a freelance photographer. For this issue, he spent five mornings walking between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Elston Avenue, where he encountered an ad paper deliveryman who thought that Strong was working for his boss and refused to be photographed.
Catey Sullivan has covered theatre for Chicago since 2008. She also writes about travel in The Escape Artist, a monthly column and weekly e-newsletter about Midwestern getaways.
Jennifer Tanaka, originally from Honolulu and a Chicago resident since 2002, is a senior editor at Chicago. She edits the magazine’s annual Best of Chicago cover story.
Kim Thornton is an associate art director at Chicago.
Todd Urban is a Chicago associate art director. He keeps a plastic dinosaur from the Field Museum’s Mold-A-Rama, which he shot for this issue, on top of his computer.
Cassie Walker, a Chicago senior editor, has been with the magazine since 2002. Her September 2009 piece, Teen Confidential, exploring the secret life of teens, won a gold medal this year from the City and Regional Magazine Association.
Jennifer Wehunt edits Chicago Guide, the magazine’s monthly compilation of the best things to do around town, and the award-winning e-newsletter by the same name.
Joe Wigdahl is an award-winning portrait and landscape photographer.
Beth Wilson is the Chicago correspondent for Women’s Wear Daily. She has covered local retail and fashion for seven years.
Luke Wilson is a British illustrator whose work has appeared in Esquire and GQ.
Katrina Wittkamp, a former photo editor for the Chicago Tribune, has taken pictures for Ladies Home Journal, Teen People, and Time. She photographed people living in four different neighborhoods for this issue.