by John Kass
The important thing about the photo above of the woman, the Easter lamb and the guy who cooked it, is the woman.
Kristen McQueary, editor of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, who announced a few days ago that she was leaving the newspaper.
Hers was the last prominent voice of reason at a paper that had been the common-sense conservative voice of the Midwest.
I am a fan. McQueary is my friend and was my editor.
The media gossips won’t heap laurels upon her as they did for others, but let me say this about her:
She’s a great leader and journalist, a tough editor, an amazing person of many talents. And she can sing.
She’s also a great mom. How do I know this?
At work, people often have their work faces on, even your friends. But when you see someone with their children, you begin to really know them.
And that Easter Sunday, McQueary brought her husband and children over to our place.
You really want to know about someone? Watch their children.
Our home was full of the usual noisy crowd. Her children were wonderful, friendly, outgoing, mixing easily with the kids of my loud ethnic tribe. And they ate the lamb, or at least I think they did, roasted as it was without the head.
She’s treated people with diverse views with respect. I’ve had many editors, but she was the best.
Though young, she is of the old school and knows the difference between analysis and ideology. She demanded research-based analysis for her editorial page, not quasi-religious political cant.
For years though, she reflected the sensibilities of many common-sense folk from all Chicago, neighborhoods, the suburbs, and the state, never talking down to or mocking our readers.
She announced her departure on Twitter. She said Friday, July 2, was to be her last day at work.
“Some personal news,” she said in a tweet. “After nine years on the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board and page editor since March of last year, Friday will be my last day at the paper. I applied for the buyout, but my application was not accepted. I’ll be pursuing other opportunities. Stay tuned!”
Many of us at the paper were offered a buyout. But her application was rejected. That was unfair. So, she’s leaving without one.
I’ve been thinking of the years there with her and the years before she arrived. And I come away with this.
I didn’t leave the Tribune.
The Tribune left me.
That is the reason I invited you to join me on this great adventure, here at johnkassnews.com.
Kristen will speak for herself when she’s ready. She has options and is weighing them.
I’ve asked her to write a column here to explain her move, and to be a guest on my podcast “The Chicago Way.” She says she needs time to sort things out. I respect that.
But whenever she speaks her mind, she’ll do it with integrity and grace.
She’d be an excellent fit at a prominent foundation. She’d also be great on radio. Or at a news site.
As a leader, she wasn’t weak, I’d never picture her as some frantic news exec catering to an ever more-militant and woke newsroom, as we’ve seen happen in so many legacy media news shops across the nation.
As a columnist, and later as the Editor of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Page, she understood the obligations of the job and the weight of all those who had come before her, recently from Jack Fuller to Lois Wille, N. Don Wycliff, R. Bruce Dold and John McCormick, when the Tribune was indeed a great paper with a strong voice.
Her philosophy was all about smaller government as an answer to rampant political corruption. The arrogance of corrupt officials has helped ruin the state, spurring the most productive taxpayers to leave in the great Illinois exodus.
She was all about more freedom for the people to make choices for themselves and their families.
Chris Jones has been named as her replacement. A prolific theater critic, Jones is a fine writer and a respected former colleague. I like the guy, perhaps because he’s also a soccer fan and was one of the few there who’d talk about The Beautiful Game. So, there may be a soccer editorial in the future. Good luck Chris.
But this is about McQueary. All of political Illinois—from Chicago to Springfield—knew her as tough but fair.
And the politicians winced when she turned her gaze upon them, as she upheld the editorial board’s mission of serving as the tribune of the people.
For example, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is still ranting that criticism of her has to do with race and gender.
Lightfoot lost the city and she lost me—I’m a former defender and supporter of hers–for reasons I’ve already explained in another column.
The desperate Lightfoot is now going full Captain Queeg, doubling down, insisting she’s being criticized because she’s a Black woman.
Editorials are unsigned. But the other day I read an editorial about Lightfoot and took a guess on who’d written it.
“Chicago voters knew they were getting someone tough in Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor and early 2018 entrant to the mayor’s race…
“What voters didn’t know is that they also were getting in Lori Lightfoot someone with a tendency toward the thin-skinned, the defensive, the short-tempered. And no, those aren’t personality quirks assigned to female leaders that would be treasured in a man. They are traits that interfere with advancing the goals of any politician, boss, CEO.
“Lightfoot would have more wins on her policy agenda if she could better manage relationships. Instead, she battles with those from whom she needs support — from Chicago aldermen to state lawmakers to her own staff and even rank-and-file police officers, a constituency she desperately needs to help keep the city safe but for whom she offers little public support.
“This is not a recipe for success. Halfway through the mayor’s term, Chicagoans deserve better.”
McQueary spent years covering politics in Chicago and Springfield, and writing columns, all the while learning the players, their histories, connections, habits, and policy positions they’d rather you forget.
This is a most critical time for taxpayers of Illinois and Chicago. Politics is a sticky spider web hidden deep within a maze of lies. The difficult part is tracing the strands that reach back years.
I know how politicians think. Many want to encounter reporters who are desperate to keep their “social justice” cred with their own woke newsrooms. True believers are the easiest to manipulate.
There was, and is, no manipulating McQueary.
In Springfield, they’ve got to be pouring the champagne, celebrating McQueary’s departure while leading taxpayers into the bottomless fiscal whirlpool.
And in Chicago, chaos and instability are on the menu, as the already weakened Lightfoot considers running for re-election.
If Lightfoot does run, the powerful Chicago Teachers Union will take her on, either directly with CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates—the true power there—or via some CTU proxy.
And Gov. Pritzker, the noted weakling, has cast his lot with the CTU.
If Lightfoot doesn’t run, the CTU will expect to choose the next mayor.
I think it’s fair to say that the same thing that was true for me also holds true for McQueary.
She didn’t leave the Tribune.
The Tribune left her.
Another strong pro-taxpayer voice vanishes from what had been a great paper
And then there were none.