Cheap Seats 2020
Kass Out - 09/30
By: Rich Trzupek
If you were born a decade or so after me, which is to say you’re 50 years of age or younger, you probably won’t recognize this name or how important its owner was to journalism, to the city of Chicago and to the fleeting concept of civilized public discourse. The name is: Mike Royko.
Royko remains one of a kind, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say he was the best of an extremely rare kind. America has been fortunate to have hosted a surprising number of talented, sardonic and entertaining widely-published commentators expressing their opinions about the issues of the day. Writers like H.L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker and Mark Twain come immediately to mind. Royko was the best of them.
When Royko passed away in 1997, the Trib knew finding someone to take his place on page two was going to be tough. They gave the job to John Kass who quickly proved himself to be almost as talented, and just as fearless, as Royko. Kass lacked Royko’s sense of crabby, but that covers every writer this side of Slats Grobnik.
The page two spot is kind of a big deal. Royko held that spot for years at the Sun Times. After Rupert Murdoch bought the Times, Royko left, observing that no self-respecting fish would allow itself to be wrapped in a paper published by Murdoch. He moved over to the Trib, the paper he had spent the better part of his career at the Daily News and Sun Times mocking on a semi-regular basis. The Trib turned page two over to him and he held that honored post until he passed on.
Kass proved a worthy successor for over two decades. Like Royko, you can’t put Kass in an ideological box. Liberals are as likely to find something they agree on in one column as conservatives are likely to agree with something else in another. The common thread that ties together John Kass and Mike Royko is that neither is willing to suffer fools lightly.
Unfortunately the paper that used to be the Chicago Tribune is now run by fools and staffed by fools. Tossing Kass out of page two and onto the opinion page is the journalistic equivalent of being told you have to ride in the back of the bus. It’s insulting and incredibly stupid.
No matter what the Trib claims, few people familiar with the story are thick enough to believe the move was just part of a “reorganization” of the paper. Kass was demoted, but he wasn’t demoted because his skills have deteriorated or because he is no longer interesting, informative and entertaining. He was demoted because he expressed an opinion.
It is immaterial to say what that opinion is. It doesn’t matter. If you know the story, you know what it is and if you don’t you can find out in approximately two minutes. I happen to agree with Kass’ opinion and I happen to believe that opinion is firmly backed up by irrefutable facts.
But again, it doesn’t matter. Opinion writers are paid to have opinions and to present them in a way that connects with the readers, some of whom will like and agree with that opinion and others who will deplore and disagree with the opinion. That’s what Kass has done for over 20 years and, to a lesser extent, what I have done on the pages of the mighty Examiner for about the same period of time.
The so-called journalists at the Trib who slandered and belittled Kass, along with their bosses who caved in to the pressure of the mob, are pathetic. There’s a reason that people trust journalists even less than they do politicians and the Trib has proved why once again.