A League of Her Own

Dear John Kass, Where's The Love?

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Please enjoy this visual representation of how John Kass imagines bloggers.

I'll be honest, I stopped reading your column a long time ago. Your predictably anti-left views and torturted take on the facts make my blood pressure rise, and I prefer to start most days without an aneurysm.

However, ChicagoNow Editor Jimmy Greenfield brought this little nugget of wisdom to my attention this morning:

Chicago Tribune reporters work in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. 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.

Guess what?

I'm a blogger for ChicagoNow, the Tribune's blogger platform. I have a journalism degree, a law degree, and I get paid to blog by the same people that pay you to write your column. I don't live with my parents and I don't blog in my basement. In fact, I run my own law firm and I'm sitting (fully dressed!) in my office right now.  

I'm curious, John, when was the last time you broke a story or wrote something that appeared anywhere outside an op-ed column?

I see. So basically, you cut and paste what others have written and comment on it?

Hmmm. That sounds a lot like what bloggers do.

Oh sure, you get paid more and you've been at it for a lot longer than I have. But, in all fairness, 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?

To be fair, your column is little more than a blog that appears in print.

Frankly, I'm unclear as to why you felt the need to take a shot at bloggers anyway. The "frat boy" allegations you were so upset about were leveled by the New York Times, not bloggers. I haven't seen anyone anywhere question the dedication of the Tribune employees, only the "suits" in charge of the company. Wouldn't the NYT, or those whose actions have been exposed as less-than-professional have been the appropriate target of your ire? 

The Tribune has created a blogger network of its own, populated by talented, hardworking writers. Sure, most of us took a little more circuitous route to "new journalism," but so have a lot of "real" reporters. Being derided by reporters at the Tribune for no apparent reason probably isn't the best way to attract new bloggers to the Tribune's network. And, if I'm being honest, grumbling about bloggers these days is tantamount to yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off your lawn. It makes you look really, really old.

I understand your need to defend an organization and co-workers that you love. But next time you speak out because you don't like a blanket statement besmirching an entire group of hard-working people, you'll look a lot more credible if you refrain from doing the same. 

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66 Comments

Doc said:

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Where did you get that picture of me?

sloan peterson said:

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That looks like the 5 or 6 guys I went to school with who were all in the science club. Who all went into medicine or computers and who can buy the small town I grew up in. My guess is Kass hung out with the football team, and considered "pull my finger" the height of wit....

Brian Moore said:

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I do some of my best work from my basement.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Seriously--so now he's ripping on telecommuters, too? What's his problem with telecommuting?

Bex said:

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What really goes on at the Tribune: John Kass copy-pastes the headlines of other people's stories to show how legitimate the paper is, while writing columns about blobfish.

Doc said:

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"Chicago Tribune reporters work in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions." I don't doubt that...that New York Times story on the goings on at Tribune Tower indicates that working there is indeed difficult and dangerous...especially for women.

sloan peterson said:

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Right on Cj! I was reading along, thinking he is acting like an old geezer, then you mention "get off my lawn"! Anyway, having read Kass's column, he is not exactly IF Stone, or even Studs Turkel...

JulieDiCaro said:

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The great irony of all this is that the ad revenue generated by all the basement bloggers is probably going towards his salary.

gravedigger said:

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Awesome.

Except that part about not starting your day with an anyuerism. Honestly, I can't think of a better way to get me going in the morning.

AndCounting said:

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Julie, I don't think John Kass speaks for the Tribune. I believe that's now Pauly Shore's job.

Ah . . . I know we had our little discussion about this, but I love everything about this post.

JulieDiCaro said:

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I propose a challenge to John Kass. One week--two columns. We each write one column per day on the same topic, and we let the readers vote on who does a better job: the "real" journalist or the basement blogger.

Edelweiss said:

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At least bloggers are open to people who don't agree with them, so other points of view get expressed. Kass can write his column, and not be criticised in print. Now, some of the comments seen on blogs probably WERE posted from mommie's basement, especially Hire Jim Essian. They include gratuitous use of the f-word and name-calling, which are the hallmark of immature people.

J Pep said:

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Sometimes dangerous??? What's dangerous about what Kass writes? The nearest thing to being anywhere remotely dangerous for Kass would be maybe a beer can or two blowing up in chicken's butt.

Aisle424 said:

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The stereotype that bloggers live in their mothers' basements is so lame. I don't know a single blogger that lives in his mothers' basement. I have a nice spot in my mom's attic next to the Christmas decorations.

Doc said:

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I find the loft over the garage to be superior to a basement or attic. But maybe that's just me.

AndCounting said:

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For real. Plus, does Kass have a groovy beaded curtain in the doorway to his office? Didn't think so.

sloan peterson said:

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(sob) At least you guys have basements or lofts! I have to post in a corner of my living room or cube at work.(sob) It's sooo unfair!!!! :)

HackWilson09 said:

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You get paid?

JulieDiCaro said:

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The site earns revenue based on page hits, yes.

Claire Golan said:

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I hope it's not your whole income. I've not been paid --yet!

HackWilson09 said:

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I bet Kass's mommy's basement is a lot more dangerous than a Wrigley Field locker room.

I would challenge him to write his column down there. Next to the futon where he still sleeps.

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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Yes, I think of bloggers as columnists without a gig, not all but some. Plus, we have to hustle for readers. I think every columnist ought to serve time as a blogger, getting a feel for what readers want and researching how to bring in readers. There's a place for you, Julie, just you wait and see. I love reading your stuff and I don't even like sports. :)

JulieDiCaro said:

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completely agree--and this is why so many columnists are completely out of touch with readers.

AndCounting said:

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The other reason newspaper columnists are out of touch with readers: there aren't any.

fmyinjury.com said:

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The thing that irks me most about this attitude, which runs rampant in legacy news organizations' newsrooms, is that they completely miss the point of what a blog actually is: an online publishing mechanism in which the most recent content appears at the top.

[Full disclosure: I work in one of these said legacy org newsrooms... in the online dept!]

gravedigger said:

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So, how long until the Trib goons come delete this, like they did with the police posts?

Tony said:

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It's cute that bloggers who don't care about Kass need validation from Kass.

gravedigger said:

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who said anything about validation?

Anna Tarkov said:

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I don't need his validation. Respect is a different matter. The two are not the same.

Tony said:

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OK then, why care about gaining his respect?

I guess that's my opinion: Why do people care so much about what other people think of them? If it's not validation then I'm genuinely confused. If someone doesn't get "it" whatever it may be, who cares?

Life is way too short to dedicate time and energy into something so trivial.

JulieDiCaro said:

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I guess for me, it's more that it's okay for the Tribune to collect the ad revenue brought in by the bloggers on ChicagoNow, but that he still felt the need to take a shot at bloggers in a column that didn't even have anything to do with bloggers.

But I really don't care what he thinks of me, and I don't excpect him to respond. It was more about putting my two cents out there.

Anna Tarkov said:

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It matters, because John Kass is (maybe sadly) not a nobody. He's a columnist as a major, prominent newspaper. If he "doesn't get it," he has the ability convince many people.

It's not a matter of not caring what people think about you. For instance, you might not care if a stranger on the street says your outfit is trashy. But if your boss thinks you dress unprofessionally, that's a problem.

If someone is a bigoted racist and only tells his family and friends, it's not great but it's not a problem for all of society. If someone is a bigoted racist, but starts a website and an organization, that's much more serious.

Do you see where I'm going with this? People's stupidity is only not a problem for the rest of us if it has no power to influence anyone. And that's actually quite rare. People who are stupid tend to love to spread their stupidity to others.

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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Yes, it's his influence. And defending the value of your blog writing. Many bloggers would gladly do more "dangerous" things if we had true power of the press, which we don't. I mean we're lucky if we can get free tickets somewhere. Personally, I think many of us could do their journalist/columnist jobs if given half the chance. Can you imagine having a staff of editors, proofreaders, headline writers, and a publisher to guide you?

Anna Tarkov said:

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This is getting off topic, but I'd be glad to discuss how (if you're serious about it) you can make this (becoming a member of the press) a reality. Ping me on Twitter :-)

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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Think I mistook this for me; Julie must be for you. Sorry.

JulieDiCaro said:

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exactly right. writing for the Tribune has been my dream since I was a child. this is as close as i've gotten. but he doesn't get to dump all over my efforts just because he got there first.

Tony said:

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The "free stuff" comment sounds more like jealousy than anything else.

His influence on this subject(perceived or otherwise)is minimal. If you already read blogs, then his comment falls on deaf ears. If you're not online, reading blogs...well, I don't think Kass was going to make or break that jump anyway.

Full disclosure: I work for Trib Co, but dislike Kass for many reasons that have nothing to do with his blogger comment.

Anna Tarkov said:

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I didn't mean that Kass was going to influence people to read blogs or not. What I'm referring to is that his attitude is emblematic of many of the problems with the news business today and that kind of attitude is counterproductive to us moving forward as an industry in a difficult time. I'm not worried about Joe or Jane Smith out there who might or might not read blogs. I'm worried about how they perceive non-mainstream news content overall and more importantly, I'm worried about how people who make decisions in newsrooms around the country understand (or not) the new media ecosystem. I mean, there are still people in decision making capacities that don't know what a link is or what a comment is or should be. WaPo just told its staffers they can't respond to readers who criticize their work on social media. As recently as this summer I spoke with someone who thought Windy Citizen was stealing content when they posted a link to something. It goes on and on and on like this. THAT'S what I worry about. Does that make sense?

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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By free, I just meant being able to get in to cover or review something. (Actually, I don't really ever want to review products or things.) I've read about others being denied entrance into places...not that I've tried as a blogger.

sloan peterson said:

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I was wondering when the trolls would come...

gravedigger said:

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They always do.

Anna Tarkov said:

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Julie, you said it a lot better than me but I was also a tad upset this morning when I read this unfortunate piece. My reaction: http://www.annatarkov.com/john-kass-im-just-not-that-into-you

Julie Hammerle said:

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Beautifully said, Julie. Though to be fair, sometimes I do blog from the basement -- but it's MY basement, not my parents'.

JulieDiCaro said:

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i often blog in my pajamas, but there's no way i'm telling HIM that. ;)

Edelweiss said:

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I lived in a basement apartment when I worked for the Tribune in 1960, (as an ad-taker). Before that, I was a guest columnist for a newspaper in Italy called Dolomiten, where I wrote about Italy's Winter Olympic Team, which I had been on. At that time, my entire family of 8 lived in one room, with a bathroom down the hall next door to a brewery. I didn't get to blog then because computers had not yet been invented, so I wrote from a basement, and a crowded apartment that was my parents'. Now I own a home in a North Shore suburb, and a condo in Wrigleyville, and I am on a blogsite.

charliedid said:

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CubbieJullie = Awesome

charliedid said:

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cubbiejulie = awesome

JulieDiCaro said:

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I'm going to wind up being so sorry I started this. Why do I always feel the need to open my big mouth?

Anna Tarkov said:

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Hey look, you made Poynter! http://twitter.com/Poynter/status/27962381843

More traffic coming your way ;-)

Anna Tarkov said:

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Silly Lucy. Big, important columnists like John don't read the comments that us peons write below his exalted words. But I liked what you wrote anyway :)

Lucy Lloyd said:

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You're probably right Anna (and thanks, btw), but that's the whole point, yes? Saying what needs to be said, regardless of the outcome?

courtholdscourt said:

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I love this. I don't have any great words of wisdom to add, but the line "And, if I'm being honest, grumbling about bloggers these days is tantamount to yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off your lawn. It makes you look really, really old," made me laugh out loud, so thanks for that.

Doug Thonus said:

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Eh...

There are a lot of crappy bloggers, I think it's fair to note that the standards are typically higher for people who are paid editorialists than bloggers on the whole, and it's silly to think otherwise IMO.

ChicagoNow has a higher standard than a typical blogger, but if you just go around the web and look at blogs, the vast majority of them really aren't that good, updated that frequently, or taken that seriously.

I don't mean this as an indictment against bloggers on the whole, hell, I'm a blogger for this site. I just mean there is a meaningful root to the reason why reporters typically don't give bloggers the full credit they deserve.

It's not fair in some cases, but it's probably pretty fair in more than it's not based on my experiences. This is why speaking in generalizations is certain to piss people off though. There are certainly many quality bloggers who probably could have been reporters or journalists and decided not to.

My first, and primary, love is computer science, and I probably make more money as a software engineer than 99% of the journalists in the nation. My hobby is writing a blog. If I took it as seriously as a journalist and was paid a huge salary to do so, I'm sure I could put out tremendously higher quality writing if I had 8 hours a day to work on it.

For me, as a part time blogger, to reach that same level of quality while spending a couple hours a day working on it is silly and unrealistic. If you're a blogger and don't work 8 hours a day on it, then I dare you to tell me you wouldn't be better if you did. That's what the op-ed guy complaining about you is doing, that's the time he's putting in.

I get why those who take their blogs seriously are annoyed, but given the wealth of people who don't take their blogs seriously and the great magnitude of difference in effort a normal op-ed guy has to put into his job, I'm not going to get too upset.

Anna Tarkov said:

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Doug (and everyone else): I hope I'm not bursting anyone's bubble her, but columnists don't work at their craft for 8 hours per day. Reporters work for 8 hours per day or more, absolutely. They work nights, weekends, whatever it takes to get the story and get it right. But columnists? Oh no no no. I can't speak for Kass' exact schedule, but I know for a fact that other prominent columnists are not putting in 8 hour days. In some cases they also write books, speak at events, appear on radio or TV, etc., etc. So yes, they might be busy, but I assure you that they're not exactly slaving away over each column. And though they might be well-written, you can see how each piece would not take 8 hours. And they don't even have to write a column each day! Is it fair? No. But such is life. It's kind of like being a managing director at an investment bank. You busted your ass for a bunch of years to get to that position and now you can just rake in a hefty salary and bonus and not work as hard. Granted, columnists don't make as much as people on Wall Street but you get the picture.

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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I guess you are right. I would spend a lot more time (and cover plenty of different topics) on my pieces if I were GUARANTEED a salary (especially a nice one) instead of the uncertain "commission" from page views. Because really we work for page views, if we want to get paid, right?

flyball said:

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we may be a bunch of basement dwellers here, but we're a nice bunch of basement dwellers

Welcome Wagon for All!

Edelweiss said:

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Newspapers are getting smaller and less important. Internet sites are growing in popularity. Maybe Kass would like as much to be a blogger as Julie dreams of being a print reporter, and just maybe he knows that he is in the milieu that is declining. In order to be a blogger, you have to be able to handle dissenting opinions, and unidentified strangers, who pretty much say what they please. Maybe what Kass has shown is not lack of respect as much as envy.

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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I think you are on to something. Bloggers are one-man bands. You write, photograph (or borrow), edit, proofread, publish, and market. A lot of work! That can be scary.

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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And exciting, so maybe he is in a way envious. Maybe he'd really rather be working from his basement instead of commuting into the downtown area?

Anna Tarkov said:

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Umm... no. I can't be 100% certain, but I doubt he's jealous of you, me or anyone else. As a columnist, he already gets to offer his opinion and write in a looser, more engaging style. So there's no jealousy there. Recently, there HAVE been some high-profile writers leaving the print world and going online. Howard Kurtz from WaPo to The Daily Beast for instance. The assumption in many of these cases is yes, they wanted the freer atmosphere of a publication where there were fewer rules, standards, etc. But I'm sure these people are not taking a pay cut to move into these digital only positions. Here in Chicago, Robert Feder left the Sun-Times to write for Vocalo i.e. WBEZ i.e. Chicago Public Media. I don't know how much he makes, but I'm sure it's not $5 per 1,000 pageviews ;-)

The point is, we are still in a stage where even if you're an amazing blogger, there might not be a place for you in traditional journalism. And as others have already pointed out, not everyone is amazing. On the flipside, not all paid reporters/columnists/editors are amazing. Many are quite mediocre. It doesn't seem fair. But such is life. If you're truly serious about writing professionally one day, you have to keep working, keep pushing, keep learning, keep networking and you'll get there eventually. Or maybe you'll find something else along the way you're passionate about.

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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Yes, really I was being very flippant about the jealous thing.:)

I was once an editor whose job involved feature article writing as well as editing and a radio reporter who needed to get the story out quickly and accurately, and feel confident that one day (when my kids are all off to college) I can go back to that or something equivalent.

I think finding a job that involves writing (if that's your thing) sometimes means starting at the bottom of a related industry, then taking on those tasks you really enjoy and proving you can do them.

I also think that amazing bloggers don't necessarily translate into amazing journalists, and vice versa. For instance, a great blogger may generate big number page views with photo galleries (and I, though I would never call myself a great blogger, have certainly done that). That strategy might pay the bills but it doesn't demonstrate your ability to write.

There is a "formula" for every type of writing venue, IMO. People just need to know how to adapt.

Teebob2000 said:

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>>I'm sitting (fully dressed!) in my office right now

Can't tell you how much that shatters my illusions.

Edelweiss said:

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Good thing you are fully dressed. Rumor has it that you are fat.

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