After a combined 55 years of telling Omaha’s stories, The Reader and El Perico will cease production with our September issue on Sept. 7.

This is difficult to share, but as Publisher/Editor/Co-founder John Heaston explains later in this email, other circumstances have made it challenging to continue.

From every member of our small but mighty staff, THANK YOU. Whether you’re a daily or once-in-a-while reader, your support has made an impact. If you’re a member, see our options for shifting or refunding your membership funds. If you’d like to make a contribution to support local journalism, you can make a donation to Omaha Documenters.

And please, reach out if you have any questions.

Read more about the decision below from John Heaston:


It was always an unexpected journey.

What started in the early 1990s as preserving the old Sokol polka hall that became today’s Admiral led to launching an alternative, investigative newsweekly with arts coverage that caught the wave that was Omaha’s indie culture explosion and all that followed.

Partnering with Omaha’s original bilingual media, El Perico, helped center equity in our coverage and contributed to a vibrant nonprofit and community media ecosystem, one that helped bend local news coverage to be more fair and just. It’s been nothing short of an incredible adventure and honor.

However, due to life circumstances, I can no longer do what’s best for myself or those closest to me by being a local media owner and operator. I intend for The Reader and El Perico to cease operations, effective by the end of August, and with our September issue.

This isn’t an easy decision, but I’ve made no secret of my medical challenges. I thought I could come back as if nothing had changed. But I made a commitment to myself, and now, a bit over a year out, is a time for a reckoning to honor that, even as my treatments continue.

I need to slow down. I need to find more space in my life.

I will focus my time catching my breath, managing health, maybe even smelling some roses, with some consulting, thinking about the future of local media and hoping to otherwise make myself useful.

This is a very personal decision. I’m still very bullish on local media opportunities and still intend to contribute as I’m able in other capacities. The Reader and El Perico are viable businesses with some extra work, financing — and if you can find that secret sauce with some staying power, potentially quite profitable. They have a lot of the right ingredients, but this line cook has to hang up his apron. They could continue in the right hands, and if you think that’s you, I’m open to a conversation.

Absent that, the hardest part of this is helping our outstanding team members find their own next adventures. They embraced our mission and there is not a group out there more dedicated to supporting and telling stories that need to be told. I cannot endorse them enough. Any organization would be lucky to have them.

I want to express my deep gratitude for a city full of stories we’ve been allowed to tell over these last three decades. These are your stories. It’s been our honor to share them. Grateful for an audience that supported that coverage. For all of our paid members, we will pro-rata refund your membership fees, though we would encourage you to redirect them as donations to Omaha Documenters. That’s the type of program that will really redefine journalism’s future.

Fortunately, we have a number of great, strong local community news media operations — Flatwater Free Press, the Omaha Star, 1st Sky Omaha, Mundo Latino and Nebraska Examiner — working on reinventing local media and journalism. They have my full support, and I hope I can help them thrive to meet the needs of our growing, diverse metropolis.
So as we wind almost 55 combined years down with The Reader and El Perico, we’d love to hear your stories, and to share those in these last issues.

And you can bet there will be a little shindig at that old polka hall. Welcome any thoughts or suggestions on that. Let’s celebrate all that we’ve done together.
Thank you, as always, for reading.

— John Heaston

Contact John at [email protected]

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