Robservations: Tribune’s John Kass fires back at ‘cancel culture’ critics

John Kass

Robservations on the media beat:

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass responded forcefully to critics — including members of the Chicago Tribune Guild — who accused him of invoking an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in a column about billionaire George Soros. Kass broke his silence Wednesday with a column headlined: “What happened to an America where you could freely speak your mind?” “I will not apologize for writing about Soros. I will not bow to those who’ve wrongly defamed me. I will continue writing my column. The left doesn’t like my politics. I get that. I don’t like theirs much, either,” he wrote. “I will not soil my name by groveling to anyone in this or any other newsroom. The larger question is not about me, or the political left that hopes to silence people like me, but about America and its young. Those of us targeted by cancel culture are not only victims. We are examples, as French revolutionaries once said, in order to encourage the others.” Wednesday also marked the first time that his column did not appear on Page 2. Losing his status as the paper’s “lead columnist” after 23 years, Kass was moved farther back along with other columnists to an op-ed page labeled “Tribune Voices.” In multiple interviews, Tribune editor-in-chief Colin McMahon declined to comment on the substance of Kass’s column or the letter from the Chicago Tribune Guild. He emphasized that the decision to move Kass and other columnists had been in the works for several months. Continue reading

CBS 2 reporter Vince Gerasole joins Archdiocese to ‘help fill spiritual void’

Vince Gerasole (Photo: Jeff Langan)

After two decades as WBBM-Channel 2’s “smart, eloquent and creative storyteller,” Vince Gerasole is leaving the TV news business for a higher calling.

The CBS-owned station stalwart will sign off in mid-August to join the Archdiocese of Chicago as director of multimedia content, according to an announcement Wednesday by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago. Continue reading

New NBC 5 anchor lineup teams Relerford with Sambolin weekday mornings

Michelle Relerford

Michelle Relerford, who’s won high marks as weekend news anchor at WMAQ-Channel 5, is moving up to join Zoraida Sambolin on “NBC 5 News Today,” the NBC-owned station’s Monday through Friday morning newscast.

Starting August 17, Relerford will anchor solo from 4 to 5 a.m. weekdays and report from the “news update desk” from 5 to 7 a.m. while Sambolin anchors. Traffic reporter Kye Martin and meteorologists Andy Avalos and Alicia Roman continue in their roles. Continue reading

Robservations: WIND afternoon host rejoins Trump campaign

Steve Cortes

Robservations on the media beat:

Steve Cortes has stepped away after seven months as afternoon host at news/talk WIND 560-AM to join President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign as senior advisor of communications. It’s a return for Cortes, who served as a member of Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council in the 2016 campaign. A Chicago native and onetime CNN political commentator, Cortes replaced Joe Walsh from 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays on the Salem Media station in January. “While we wish Steve could stay on the air with us during these next few critical months before the election, we also understand the pull that Steve feels to help President Trump,” said Jeff Reisman, regional vice president and general manager of AM 560. “Steve will have a front row seat to history between now and the election, and we look forward to welcoming him back in November and having him share his firsthand account of how this campaign unfolded with our audience.” Filling in until Cortes returns is Shaun Thompson, Sunday night host of “The Liberty Hour.” Continue reading

Steve Cochran relaunches podcast with updates from Magers, Middlebrooks

Steve Cochran

Longtime Chicago radio personality Steve Cochran is relaunching his podcast today on an array of new platforms — with a little help from two of the most successful local broadcasters of all time.

Ron Magers, who retired in 2016 as Chicago’s top-rated TV news anchor, and Felicia Middlebrooks, who retired in May as Chicago’s top-rated morning radio news anchor, will be featured as Cochran’s guests this week on “Live From My Office.” (Here is the link to subscribe.) Continue reading

Tribune moving John Kass column ‘to maintain credibility of news coverage’

Colin McMahon

After 23 years as the Chicago Tribune’s white male conservative standard-bearer, John Kass is about to lose his coveted spot on Page 2 and his status as the newspaper’s “lead columnist.”

Colin McMahon, editor-in-chief of the Tribune, today announced plans to reorganize the paper’s columnists and separate their work from the news section. Continue reading

Tribune colleagues blast John Kass column as ‘antithetical to our values’

John Kass

John Kass, the Chicago Tribune’s most prominent columnist, is under fire from his co-workers for invoking what they called an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory involving billionaire George Soros in a column last week.

A letter from the Chicago Tribune Guild, signed by nine members of the executive board, called on the newspaper and Kass to “apologize for his indefensible invocation of the Soros tropes.” Continue reading

Four ‘valued colleagues’ cut in layoffs at WTTW, WFMT

WTTW WFMT

Four full-time employees were laid off and other cost-cutting measures were disclosed Friday at the nonprofit parent company of public television WTTW-Channel 11 and classical music WFMT 98.7-FM.

Representatives of Window to the World Communications Inc. declined to discuss the moves, which were announced in an internal memo to staff. “We don’t comment on personnel matters,” a company spokeswoman said. Continue reading

Jerry Taft 1943-2020

Jerry Taft

Jerry Taft, who was a trusted and engaging presence as a top meteorologist on Chicago television and radio for more than 40 years, died Thursday, according to ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. He was 77.

No cause of death was immediately reported, but Taft was known to have suffered from congestive heart failure for several years. ABC 7 said he died peacefully surrounded by family members. Continue reading