by Chuck Colbert
The publisher and executive editor of Chicago’s leading LGBT publication has received top honors from the Chicago Headline Club. And not only did the venerable mainstream organization bestow its Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in Chicago journalism on Tracy Baim, but the largest Society of Professional Journalists chapter in the country recognized her for an editorial series on marriage equality in Illinois.
Baim received the honors and award on May 2, 2014, during the 37th annual Peter Lisagor Awards Dinner, held at The Union League Club in Chicago. The awards recognize work published in 2013.
|Tracy Baim (right) with veteran Chicago journalist Bill
Kurtis, both Lifetime Achievement Award winners.
(Photo: Hal Baim, Windy City Times)
“It is an amazing honor to be recognized by your peers, no matter what field you are in. But in journalism, it feels especially gratifying because for so many years, LGBT journalism was not respected in the mainstream,” said Baim. “It was also terrific to be honored for the editorials on marriage equality, because when the first one was published, it was actually criticized by other media because it was so strong on the leaders of the push for marriage. It was holding their feet to the fire, but also offering solutions.”
In its coverage of Baim’s accomplishments, the Advocate noted the lifetime achievement awards as “a landmark for LGBT media.”
Baim is publisher and executive editor at Windy City Media Group, which produces Windy City Times, Nightspots and other gay media in Chicago. She co-founded Windy City Times in 1985 and Outlines newspaper in 1987. She has won numerous gay community and journalism honors, including the Community Media Workshop’s Studs Terkel Award in 2005. She started in Chicago gay journalism in 1984 at GayLife newspaper one month after graduating with a journalism degree from Drake University.
Baim is also the editor and co-author of 2012’s “Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America,” a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and a Top 10 selection from the American Library Association GLBT Round Table.
Just in time for the 2010 mid-term elections, Baim authored and published “Obama and the Gays: A Political Marriage,” a 550-page book chronicling the accomplishments and stumbles of the Obama administration on LGBT rights, as well as probing the LGBT community’s role in the president’s political triumphs.
Two years earlier, Baim founded Ripe Fruit Films and was among the producers of the Sharon Gless movie “Hannah Free,” which won a number of regional and city-based film festivals.
In 2008, she co-authored and edited the first book dedicated to LGBT Chicago history, “Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community.”
Among other accomplishments, the veteran journalist played a significant role in bringing the 2006 Gay Games to Chicago and launched the Chicago Gay History website, chicagogayhistory.com, which provides a wealth of information about the community online.
In the editorial series for which the Chicago Headline Club honored her, Baim was especially hard on an openly gay Illinois state lawmaker, Rep. Greg Harris, a move that did not sit well with some people.
“If you are out front for the credit when there is victory, you are also out front for the failure. The bill stops there,” Baim wrote on June 1, 2013, in an editorial entitled “The Marriage Fiasco.”
“Harris made promises he could not keep. In politics, that can be a reason to step down,” she explained. “Harris, who has dedicated his career to LGBT and AIDS issues, deserves the chance to prove his strategy right. If he wins, we all win, and that is all that matters. But if he does not succeed in passing this in the veto session this fall, he should not run for re-election in 2014. To be clear, this is not a call for Harris to resign (despite what many on social media and in the mainstream media have interpreted this editorial to say), but he will have lost the trust of the people he made commitments to, and it is very difficult to lead once that trust is gone. In addition, Harris should step down now as chief sponsor of this legislation. He has proven he is tone deaf to the wishes of both the grassroots and leadership of this community. They almost all called for a vote ‘no matter what.’ Instead, Harris chose to give cover to his political colleagues, rather than follow through on his own on-the-record promise to call for a vote by May 31.”
Shortly thereafter, writers for the Chicago’s leading mainstream dailies, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, ran editorials backing Harris and saying this was not the time to step down.
Marriage equality legislation passed in the Illinois Senate in February 2013, but lawmakers delayed a vote in the House, in order to lobby for votes, until November 5, 2013, when that body passed an amended version of the bill by a narrow margin.
The Senate quickly approved the amended bill, and Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, signed it into law on November 20, 2013, with it to take effect on June 1, 2014, when gay and lesbian couples can marry after a mandatory 24-hour waiting period.
Moreover, on February 21, 2014, a U.S. district court judge ruled that same-sex couples in Cook County (where Chicago is located) could marry immediately and need not wait for the law to take effect on June 1. Based on that ruling, more than half a dozen other counties have begun to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in Illinois.
IN THE NEWS