End of an Era

John Kass has published his last column for the Chicago Tribune.

Gentle reader, when I first got myself a sit down in an office job in an IT company in 1998, I had an Internet connection all day long, and so, in addition to writing documentation using software that made the contract technical writer cry in frustration, I started reading a lot of newspaper Web sites every day. Especially the newspaper columnists. I read Roeper, Steinberg, Kass, Greene, and Schmich from the Chicago papers.

Over the years, the number I’ve read has dwindled. After 2000, most of them veered too left for me, and Greene was dismissed from the Chicago Tribune. Although I still say “Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen” whenever the topic of sunscreen comes up at Nogglestead, I don’t tend to read new Schmich. Kass was the only one I would go to the Chicago Tribune Web site, intermittently, to read.

Perhaps the loyal devotion to columnists tailed off when it became clearer that I was not destined to be a columnist.

At any rate, for some reason the Chicago Tribune separated him, which means that the only remaining reason I have to visit that Web site is to gleefully follow the heartbreak of another Bears season. Intermittently, and maybe.

Although the corporation is probably better off without me, too, as I don’t tend to click the ads and do not subscribe to Internet publications. But Tronc, or whatever the corporation calls itself these days, has sacrificed a reason old people like me read the physical paper when we do (as a reminder, I subscribe to five newspapers from around the state, soon to be seven now that The Licking News has a way to subscribe online finally and because I’ll also take the adjacent Houston Herald).

For the news, yes, but also the voices of Jim Hamilton, Larry Dablemont, Father Hirz, Cassie Downs, Amber Heard, Karen Craigo, and other friendly print voices. Which does not mean 23-year-old Web content producers writing clickbait listicles; it means adults.

I hope Kass continues writing; I have seen his work in other venues, but that might have just been his Tribune columns syndicated.

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3 thoughts on “End of an Era

  1. Kass’s tenure began after I left Chicago but when I would read him he was clearly a “Chicago guy” who had the same mix of eye-rolling disgust and shoulder-shrugging affection for the town and its shenanigans that marked a good newspaper columnist. “This place is messed up,” would be the assessment, “but it’s *our* messed up, and as long as it is, I got work.”

    He was clearly to the right of Royko but he also embodied the town; I figure that’s why the Trib had given him the Page 2 spot for so long. According to an article in Crain’s Chicago Business he took the buyout being offered by the new ownership along with a lot of other staff who probably figured they’d get cut in 6 to 12 months anyway with nothing.

  2. You did time in Chicago? And you seem like such a nice boy.

    Fortunately, rooting for that town’s sports teams apparently does not afflict you.

    I read a bunch of Royko, and you know, those old columnists could be to the left and not be odious. Now, though, part of the game is dunking on the people you disagree with. Which means they don’t read you. As I mentioned, I used to read a lot of the Chicago columnists that I don’t read any more. Including Steve Chapman, who used to be kinda libertarian leaning, but not as much any more.

    St. Louis’s paper, the Post Dispatch, had Bill McClennan for a long time–he’s mostly retired and has been fighting cancer for years–but I never liked him. Then they had one black columnist to cover everything racist and either the old sports columnist or television columnist who was suddenly an Important Voice on the editorial page that dunked on Republicans. Springfield has a decent columnist–Steve Pokin–who answers reader questions and only sometimes veers into the political obnoxiously.

    The columnists in the small town papers, though, tend to be pretty even-handed and not snarky even when they’re political. Well, except the publisher of the Greene County Commonwealth who tends to be a little that way, but he’s young. 30 something, maybe. It’s what he would have been raised to.

    Of course, this blog has its turns at the snarky. In my defense, though, it is but a blog. And has a very selective readership who forgives me my occasional subpith. Don’t you?

  3. Forgiveness is in the job description ;-)

    I attended Northwestern 82-86, and earned a journalism degree, even working in the field before switching to another First Amendment clause.

    Kass represents what may be impossible to find in a big-city paper anymore — the locally identifiable columnist. The greats of the middle 20th century may have written with wide application, depending on the subject, but they were first and foremost writing about Noo Yawk, or Chi-town, or Bahston, or wherever.

    Old-school center-lefties like Royko often targeted crookedness and corruption, which set them against the kind of conservativism that resisted change more than the kind that represented a philosophical school of thought. It was still kind of a fatcats vs. the little guys mindset more than anything else. But when his side got stupid he’d nail them too, like the Mizzou journalism school’s list of words you shouldn’t say column from 1990. I didn’t read Kass nearly as often but I got that same Chi-town vibe off of him.

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