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.

iHeartMedia Chicago

Studios and offices of iHeartMedia Chicago at 233 North Michigan Avenue have been locked down this week after an unidentified employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to insiders. Only three engineers, an engineering vice president and housekeeping personnel are being allowed in, sources said. Matt Scarano, president of iHeartMedia Chicago, declined to comment. The iHeartMedia group here includes hip-hop WGCI 107.5-FM, R&B WVAZ 102.7-FM, Top 40 WKSC 103.5-FM, adult contemporary WLIT 93.9-FM, country WEBG 95.5-FM, and gospel WGRB 1390-AM.

ESPN Chicago 1000

Today marks the final broadcast of Mike Golic and Trey Wingo’s morning show on Good Karma Brands sports/talk WMVP 1000-AM. But we still don’t know what market manager Mike Thomas has in mind for their replacement. ESPN Network, which is pulling the plug on Golic and Wingo, will provide fill-in hosts at least though August 17. After that, all signs are pointing to ESPN 1000 launching a local morning show to compete against Mike Mulligan and David Haugh on Entercom sports/talk WSCR 670-AM.

Mary VanDeVelde

Mary VanDeVelde, celebrated morning traffic reporter on WGN 720-AM, is moving to afternoons. Starting Monday, she’ll deliver reports from noon to 7 p.m. on the Nexstar Media Group news/talk station. Traffic updates on Bob Sirott’s morning show and John Williams’s midday show will be handled by WGN-Channel 9 from now on. Lauren Lapka, who’s been afternoon traffic reporter since 2019, will shift to news. WGN Radio is expanding its newsroom to accommodate audio and digital services for Nexstar’s News Nation startup.

Steve Darnall

Steve Darnall wraps up his ambitious four-year series on the 75th anniversary of radio and World War II throughout August on “Those Were the Days.” This weekend’s show will include the first bulletin about the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, along with news broadcasts from H.V. Kaltenborn, Lowell Thomas, Gabriel Heatter, Robert Trout and others about the possible Japanese surrender. “Those Were the Days” airs from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays on College of DuPage’s WDCB 90.9-FM. “These broadcasts are a reminder of a time when Americans came together and helped to defeat a global threat by putting the welfare of others ahead of their own immediate gratification — and doing so until the job was done,” Darnall said.

WFMT

Highland Park’s Ravinia Festival is teaming with classical music WFMT 98.7-FM on a new weekly concert series. Starting August 6, eight 40-minute concerts recorded in Ravinia’s Bennett Gordon Hall will air at 8 p.m. Thursdays on the Window to the World Communications station. “WFMT appreciates the opportunity to bring our audiences these new and stellar performances from Ravinia,” said general manager George Preston.

AM 1530 WCKG

Arlington International Racecourse’s days may be numbered, but it’s turning to a suburban radio station as a broadcast partner in the meantime. Starting this week, live race calls from the Arlington Heights track are airing from 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday on WCKG 1530-AM, the DuPage Radio sports/talk station branded as “Sportsbook Radio.” “We are excited to be extending coverage of our live racing product to the airwaves and digital streaming apps,” said Arlington president Tony Petrillo.

Emily Barr

Emily Barr, former president and general manager of ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, has been named 2020 Broadcaster of the Year by Broadcasting and Cable, the weekly magazine of the telecommunications industry. Since 2012 Barr has been president and CEO of Chicago-based Graham Media Group, overseeing seven stations across the country. She will be honored October 1 at Television Bureau of Advertising’s Alt Forward 2020 virtual conference. Barr headed top-rated ABC 7 from 1997 to 2012.

Thursday’s comment of the day: Janet Davies: I met Vince [Gerasole] as both of us covered the Mass at Holy Name Cathedral the day of 9/11. We immediately became friends because I saw a gentleman, a story teller, an intellect and an empathetic journalist. Vince, you will continue to shine.