Chicago Tribune downsizes their star columnist

As the newspaper business collapses, even its stars – the kind of writers that people buy a newspaper specifically to read their work – are getting downsized. And it’s happened to John Kass, one of the best columnists in America, in the wake of his newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, being acquired by a hedge fund that is attempting to downsize its way to viability.

Tom Jones of the Poynter Institute describes the bloodbath at the Trib:

 Sadly, we feared this would happen. But it doesn’t make it any less of a gut punch.

And, even more sadly, the citizens of Chicago, and consumers of good journalism, are worse off because of it.

Almost 40 journalists at the Chicago Tribune are taking buyouts and leaving the paper, according to a report in the Tribune.

Almost 40! 

That number includes some of the most talented voices in the business and some of the most influential writers in the Windy City.

But as I said, this is no surprise. The buyouts come not long after hedge fund Alden Global Capital acquired Tribune Publishing, owner of the Tribune and other publications, for $633 million. Buyouts were first offered to nonunion editors and support staff, and more than a dozen accepted. Then another 24 newsroom union employees applied for and were accepted for buyouts.

Many include some of the highest-profile names at the paper, including columnists Mary Schmich, whom I mentioned in the newsletter earlier this week, Dahleen Glanton, Steve Chapman, Heidi Stevens, Eric Zorn and John Kass.

I am familiar with the fine work of a number of these columnists, but Kass stands out as the inheritor of the role played by Tribune giants of the past like Mike Royko, writing with a common guy’s perspective on the corrupt and colorful ways of Chicago’s pols, never losing sight of their effect on the ordinary folks.

I hope that Kass got a decent buyout sum, and I am very glad that he just started his own blog. Robert Feder, who covers Chicago’s media, writes:

In the week since he launched his independent website at former Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass says he’s already picked up 35,000 email subscribers. Asked whether he’ll try to monetize it through selling advertising or charging for subscriptions, Kass told Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman in a podcast interview: “That will be determined, but I assume it will be some hybrid of both.” (Here is the link.) “When you go into business for yourself, it’s exhilarating and exciting. I’m totally pumped for it.” Kass, who turns 65 today, was among about 40 journalists to exit the Tribune in the current round of buyouts. The onetime radio host also hinted at a future on the air: “I’m in meetings now with various broadcast entities to continue talking to people in Chicago,” he said. “I think they might want to hear what I have to say.” Spielman, razor sharp and still at the top of her game, pressed Kass on how it felt to be “stabbed in the back” by some of his Tribune colleagues, who publicly accused him of invoking an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in a column and challenged him on other issues. “I think what happened generally is that clearly I offered a dissenting voice. I am conservative,” Kass said. “I can’t speak to the minds of those who disparaged me and defamed me, but I think that they didn’t like the fact that I refused to join the union. They repeatedly asked me to join. So they defamed me. . . . I wasn’t happy about it. But, you know, we move on. So I moved on.”

Accusing Kass of Jew-hatred is absurd. The excuse they used was his attacking George Soros. Feder earlier covered that scurrilous charge:

Under the headline “Something grows in the big cities run by Democrats: An overwhelming sense of lawlessness,” the column blamed Soros for spending “millions of dollars to help elect liberal social justice warriors as prosecutors [including Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx], adding: “He remakes the justice system in urban America, flying under the radar.” (Here is the link.)

And, just as I expected, Kass’s work on his new blog is up to his usual high standards. Here is a link to “The Unbearable Lightness of Lightfoot.”

I wish Kass the best of luck in making his website economically viable. With Google and Facebook grabbing the lion’s share of ad revenue, supporting a website on ads alone just won’t work for most of us, including American Thinker. Without our subscribers and readers' donations, we'd be toast. But I suspect that Kass will find enough readers willing to lay out cash to keep on hearing his unique voice.

Hat tip: Peter von Buol

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