John Kass, other opinion columnists shifted to “back pages” of Chicago Tribune

In response to complaints from readers and even reporters and employees from the paper he works for, the Chicago Tribune has decided to shift John Kass’ column into the opinion section in the print edition instead of being the “lead columnist”.

The move comes after a column he wrote ran last week criticized Democrat-run cities and even suggested the campaigning for State’s Attorney and other Democratic pols were funded by some guy named George Soros (who I admit until recently, have never heard of.) It’s a common conspiracy point made by conservatives.

The piece slams leadership in big cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, New York City, etc. as crime has surged in these places in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in May. Since then, mostly peaceful protests have taken place in more than one hundred cities nationwide.

But some of those protests has turned violent, including in Portland, Ore. and Oakland, Calif, and some on May 31 and June 1 deteriorated into rioting and looting, including here in Chicago. Kass took aim at Mayor Lightfoot and other Democratic leaders over handling of the city’s violence epidemic and raucous protests, suggesting another wave of “white flight” would take place from Chicago, which was common throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

This comes as President Trump has re-defined his flagging re-election campaign on “Law and Order” themes instead of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 140,000 people nationwide. Trump has targeted Chicago as enemy number one, as he sends federal agents to our city and others to combat rising crime in what some say is an election publicity stunt.

This isn’t the first time the Tribune has fumbled on race issues: in 2015, a controversial column from Kristen McQueary called for a “Hurricane Katrina”-like event to hit Chicago to solve the city’s problems with crime and poverty, which many readers decried as racist.

In a letter to the Tribune, the union that represents reporters and other journalists at the paper (known as the Chicago Tribune Guild) blasted Kass for floating around right-wing conspiracy theories, amid a surge of hate crimes across the country. The union also slammed him for comments made in another column April 23, referring to journalists as “media elites” comment at the time when the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the media industry, laying off many reporters and journalists. In the same column, Kass also used racially-coded language to describe Black and Hispanic areas, as listed below:

On Monday, the paper announced Kass’ column – and well as other Tribune’s opinion columnists – will shift to the back pages of the front section, in a new place called “Tribune Voices” in order to separate news from opinion and to “maintain the credibility of [their] news coverage.”

This comes as tensions mount between journalists who work for newspapers and editorial board members, who are usually conservative and champion such causes. Last week, many Wall Street Journal employees asked the paper’s stanch conservative editorial board for more accuracy who in a note to readers, fired back saying they would not succumb to “cancel culture”. Basically, the Tribune is doing the same thing the Journal employees want their paper to do.

Kass and McQueary have joined the Chicago Tribune editorial board in recent years, who are not union employees.

Regarding Kass, this space aired grievances against him ten years ago regarding the “poker parties” then-Tribune Co.bosses Sam Zell and Randy Michaels threw at a Tribune Tower penthouse, saying the saga at the company was “none of our business”. A few years ago, Kass used the success of my alma mater Leo High School to make the case for school vouchers instead of sending kids to public school. (You can read the article for a limited time only on The T Dog Media Slideshare page.)

The real question is, will this make any kind of difference? The “lead columnist” of a newspaper was demphasized years ago – specifically after Mike Rokyo died, whom Kass replaced. This move won’t make any difference in the digital era where there is no “back page”.

We all know both Kass and McQueary were undermining the credibility of the Chicago Tribune just as much as Jay Mariotti was undermining the credibility of the Sun-Times’ sports journalists when he was there. For anyone getting around to figuring this out now should’ve woken up to this fact 20 years ago.

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