Wednesday, October 20, 2010

John Kass's Humor Finally Reaches the 21st Century

Posted By on 10.20.10 at 04:31 PM

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  • TheAwl.com
Accompanying the Trib's article-nouncement about CEO Randy Michaels's pending resignation is a majestic new essay by columnist John Kass about "What really goes on at Tribune Tower." Despite what you've read, the big building at 435 N. Michigan is not a "frat-house complete with poker parties, juke boxes and pervasive sex talk." It's a place where reporters routinely put themselves at risk in pursuit of the news.

Unlike some people. Ahem.

"Chicago Tribune reporters work in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions," Kass writes. "They do not blog from mommy's basement, cutting and pasting what others have reported, while putting it under a cute pen name on the Internet."

Though emotional and inspiring in places—"I look up at the magnificent Tribune Tower and feel a mixture of awe and pride," Kass wrote, while flags flew, trumpets blared, and mushrooms fried—Kass's piece nevertheless offended some bloggers. Marcus Gilmer, who served as Chicagoist's editor-in-chief until moving over to The Onion's AV Club earlier this month, tweeted about Kass's "stupid blogger swipe," which amounted to "hackneyed, out of touch bullshit."

And Julie DiCaro, a lawyer and blogger whose "A League of Her Own" appears on the Tribune's Chicago Now site, wrote "Dear John Kass, Where's The Love?," which takes the defender of real men's culture to task in letter form. Kass might be prone to outdated thinking, DiCaro suggests:

... in all fairness [Mr. Kass], you're a lot older than me and, when you broke into journalism, newspapers were probably still hiring. Additionally, because the media is still populated by people who have the same take on bloggers as you do, I don't have press credentials, so I don't have much of a choice in cutting and pasting what the beat reporters write. I bet you DO have press credentials, so what's your excuse?

DiCaro wants to know when Kass last " broke a story or wrote something that appeared anywhere outside an op-ed column." Mind you, she admits to not reading Kass's column in quite a long time, and most likely missed his investigative report on America's Hopium shortage, story on what the Sun-Times was reporting, and this profile of Uncle Feds.

If anything, Kass's view on bloggers calls to mind a statement made earlier this year by Randy Michaels about Vocalo blogger Robert Feder, who had written a post critical of Michaels's issuing a list of 119 forbidden words and phrases to WGN-AM staff. In response to Feder's post, Michaels said that Feder was "no longer paid to be in media," which apparently wasn't true. Seems like the Trib's got a schizoid outlook on blogging, pursuing ambitious initiatives like Chicago Now while letting high-profile reps mimic Sarah Palin, who also complains about all the bloggers just bloggin' from basements. Maybe ex-Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams was right: maybe he was too "Apple era," and too "rock and roll."

And maybe I shouldn't beat up on Kass too much in this instance, because at least he's espousing 21st-century views instead of his usual 1950s ones. That's some kind of progress, which sounds needed at the magnificent Tribune Tower.

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