Tribune columnist John Kass clarifies swipe at ‘media elites’

John Kass

John Kass, the Chicago Tribune's most prominent columnist, says he knows he raised the ire of media colleagues with what they viewed as an attack on their beleaguered profession. And now he's sorry for that.

“Unlike the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, America’s cultural elites, in politics, government and media, are doing just fine during the coronavirus shutdown,” Kass wrote in his Thursday column headlined: “Just think about the guy in line at the food pantry.”

A chorus of journalists — including some from his own newspaper — took Kass to task on social media for saying they're "doing just fine" only days after Tribune Publishing announced another wave of companywide furloughs, salary reductions and staff cutbacks. Here’s a sampling of the criticism:

  • Stacy St. Clair: The “media elites” at John’s newspaper have either been furloughed or given a permanent pay cut. And there are 33,000 journalists across the country facing similar losses. #doingjustfine
  • David Heinzmann: ACOB Peanut would like to point out to a certain columnist that the media are not “doing just fine.” At least 33,000 journalists have lost jobs or taken pay cuts, including hardworking people at our own paper struggling to make ends meet.
  • Parker Molloy: Genuinely amazing that the day after this guy's own newspaper started the process of furloughing a bunch of actual journalists, Kass churns out a column talking about how good "media elites" have it.
  • Leor Galil: did john kass, a man who makes six figures for spouting half-formed nonsense, complain about "media elites"
  • Whet Moser: yes. he also suggested that the reason black chicagoans are hit especially hard is that gang members are partying on the corner and bringing it back to family members

Kass acknowledged that his phrasing of "media elites" had angered colleagues.

“I am truly sorry I was not clear,” he told me in an email. “I was referring to myself as a columnist who has the luxury of working from home, and to the TV talking heads, politicians and bureaucrats. I was not referring to reporters, many of whom have been laid off as coronavirus negatively impacts local advertising.

“Our reporters are working hard, many for low pay. I should have made that more clear.”

Chicago Sun-Times

In related news, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday that it has been able to avoid imposing layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts in part because it received $2.7 million through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.

In addition, the paper's leading investors, Michael Sacks and Rocky Wirtz, put more of their money into Sun-Times Media in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We haven’t had to make emergency cuts like that, and we hope to avoid them," the Sun-Times wrote in an editorial. "Two of our competitors, the Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald, have. It troubles us that those cuts are hitting at a time like this, and we’re hoping that all three of our organizations can persevere. The more journalism in Chicago, the suburbs and the rest of Illinois, the better."