John Kass, the Chicago Tribune’s most prominent columnist and one of its leading conservative voices, called it quits Friday after 38 years at the newspaper.
Kass, 64, was the latest to opt for a voluntary buyout offered by Alden Global Capital, the New York-based hedge fund known for severe cost-cutting at newsrooms across the country.
According to the Chicago Tribune Guild roughly a quarter of all newsroom staffers — including columnists Eric Zorn and Heidi Stevens — applied for buyouts this week.
“You readers are the reason I’ve been able to do this for so long,” Kass wrote in his farewell column. (Here is the link.) “You’ve stood by me. You’ve had my back. And as subscribers, you’ve fed my family and helped pay our bills. I owe you everything.
“The Tribune has offered me and many others a separation agreement. This is my last column for the Chicago Tribune.”
He promptly unveiled his new venue — an independent blog site at johnkassnews.com. “Instead of reading me in the newspaper, you can read me here. Free. Until I figure out the next move,” he wrote.
A Chicago native and graduate of Harold L. Richards High School, Kass attended Columbia College before he landed a job as a reporter for the Daily Calumet. He joined the Tribune in 1983 and was promoted to columnist after the death of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike Royko in 1997.
Last summer Kass’s column was moved off Page 2 and relegated to an op-ed page labeled “Tribune Voices” after the Chicago Tribune Guild accused him of invoking anti-Semitic tropes in a column about billionaire George Soros.
Calling himself a victim of “cancel culture,” Kass said at the time: “I will not apologize for writing about Soros. . . . I will not soil my name by groveling to anyone in this or any other newsroom.”
In his farewell Friday, he wrote: “What happens next? An adventure happens. I’m not going away. If you follow me on Facebook and listen to “The Chicago Way” podcast, you’ll learn all about it. . . . I still have a few spears left to throw. Let’s see what happens.”