“Have Laptop, Will Travel,” and the Demise of The Chicago Tribune

By John Kass

July 27, 2022

When the editors of “the paper” that I served faithfully for 40 years recently decided to team up with angry leftist trolls in a vengeful “gotcha” exposé on our new home, I wasn’t happy about it.

Betty was livid.

“Why won’t they leave us alone?” she asked. “You don’t work there anymore. Why is this a story?”

Because this is how they play. This is who they are. They won’t leave us alone. They’ll never leave us alone.

About a year ago, I left them and began this great new adventure that many of you have joined me on, this expedition into the great unknown of independent journalism, even as corporate legacy media collapses of its own corrupt and sodden weight.

I get it. Some at “the paper” are angry. Bitter. This is not the old Tribune. It’s the new left-leaning Tribune. I see the woke media for what it is, what it’s done to the city, how they’ve avoided the truth of what’s happened to Chicago. And the left hates my guts.

Once there was an almost quasi-religious belief at the Tribune Tower that there was no possibility of real life if you dared leave the Tower. But the Tower is gone. There is no Tower now. And the virtues “the paper” once held dear at that Tower, are stepped on and forgotten.

So to get at me, they targeted our modest home in Indiana — still just barely in the Chicago metro area where they still sell “the paper” at the local stores — and wrote a story about it earlier this month. They made our home sound luxurious. It isn’t. It’s just a modest home.

The story with my name in the headline prattled on in a breathy, gossipy tone about the powder rooms.

And about “hardwood floors throughout on the main level, a family room with vaulted ceilings, a formal dining room and an eat-in kitchen with granite countertops. The house also has hardwood floors on the upper level, and it has a lower level with a brick fireplace with a glass door to an exterior patio space.”

I can’t recall “the paper” ever dedicating so much precious time, resources and space, when newsrooms are strained, to other columnists at the Tribune who bought or sold a home.

Just me. Curious. Hmm.

On the paper’s Facebook page, a few readers were glad I left. But there were many others who agreed with Betty that it was a mean-spirited hit piece and not much of a story.

“Has the Tribune not harassed this Chicago legend enough?” asked one reader named Gene. “All of a sudden, he buys a place close by that has lower taxes and much less crime, and it’s news? We should be concentrating on the mayor…going on a European vacation when businesses are leaving Chicago at the fastest pace on record violence. That’s news.”

I don’t think I’m a legend. But thanks, Gene. My new wonderfully low property tax bill is legendary, though.

“Why does the Tribune care where he lives? He was the best thing at this formerly great newspaper. The Trib has become a joke and the perfect newspaper for this dying city,” another reader wrote.

“Good for him. Bad for you,” wrote a guy named Joe. “I was a paying subscriber to the Chicago Tribune for over twenty years. I used to love this newspaper. Once you demoted Kass from page two to the back of the paper for refusing to cave into your ‘woke’ politics, I quit.

“I do enjoy his online website that I’m happy to pay a subscription for.”

Thanks, Joe! Subscriptions for johnkassnews.com start at only $5 a month, or you get two months free for a yearly $50 subscription. And soon, I might be offering some cool merch to loyal yearly customers.

There were other stories more important to the Tribune’s readers than vengeance on me.

They could have written about the continued rise in violent crime and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s pathetic administration of the overworked and understaffed police department, where there aren’t enough cops to handle 9/11 emergency calls.

Or they could have fully explored the abysmal news that many cheerleading press agents ignore amid all their forced happy talk: Downtown commercial office vacancy rates have hit record highs.

Yet Lightfoot tries to distract from her failures in public safety by desperately babbling about plopping a $2 billion dome on top of Soldier Field, even as the Chicago Bears make plans to leave for Arlington Heights. Idiocracy.

Yet “the paper” is interested in where Kass lives and dedicated a reporter, his time and an entire story to the subject, including our tax bills and other details. Worse, a weird angry troll on social media then documented, publicly, a full day of his travels from Chicago via bicycle and public transportation, traveling to my home. Our home. This is what “the paper” triggered.

The troll probably thought it was clever. And amusing.

I didn’t. I thought it was pathetic. And revealing.

The idea of “the paper” and the trolls was about somehow trying to shame me for moving away from crime-infested Chicago, as hundreds of thousands before me have done. The idea was to calcify idiotic, zigzag reasoning: Kass doesn’t live in Chicago. How dare he talk or write about Chicago?

I spent most of my life in the city. And yet I have no right to talk about it?

That is supremely illogical.

Must you live in Minneapolis to offer a valid opinion of the police murder of George Floyd?

Do you have to be born in Paris to recognize the lust for the Reign of Terror flickering behind the eyes of all those American neo-Jacobins searching for conservative heads to lop on Madame Guillotine?

There was another question to ask, but they don’t dare ask it:

Why would someone like me, who loved Chicago and loved it so much to move back into the city just as many of our friends were moving out, ever think about leaving the place I was born?

Several years ago, Betty and I were excited about going back into the city because we loved it. We lived in a three flat. I wrote columns about it. I wanted to give Lightfoot and Gov. Big Boy a chance to show me something, that they were willing to lead to help protect the people.

It was to be like our Year in Provence. We loved Chicago.

But violence and politics and the lack of political leadership soured us. And crime, crime and more crime.  Violence, chaos and anarchy. Crushing taxes.

And a complete lack of political leadership coming from Lightfoot and Boss Toni Preckwinkle and her mouth-breathing minion, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

We’re not alone in this, are we?

No, we’re not. The loss of Illinois’ population is well-documented and reflected in our loss of Congressional seats each Census.

You see, there is a great realignment taking place in and around the old blue cities, a reset involving all that vacant urban downtown office space.

It is empty due to blue state government shutdowns of businesses during the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter riots that savaged downtown following the death of George Floyd.

The violent were unleashed. People aren’t going to work as they used to. Violent crime is scaring everyone off. And in Chicago, office workers just don’t want to take the CTA rapid transit trains to work, because they don’t want to become a crime or murder statistic.

So, I adopted “Have Laptop, Will Travel.”

There was an old TV show that many of you are too young to remember. It was a western from when I was a little boy, a Western about a gun for hire, a knight errant named Paladin.

It was called “Have Gun Will Travel.”

Kids would sing the theme song.

These days, I’d rather carry a laptop than a gun. And “Have Laptop, Will Travel” sounds about right.

Because where a writer chooses to put his laptop depends on his dreams and opportunity. There is so much to write about. And because of you readers, I have that opportunity.

I think of that cheap trick “exposé” of my new home by “the paper” that is dying and irrelevant, being given away for pennies, the jabbering of the leftist trolls and the “woke” newsroom union that sought to cancel me for writing the truth, and I just can’t repress a chuckle.

But unfortunately, a once-great city is dying. Chicago and Illinois are desperate for new leadership. And I don’t see any leadership in dying corporate journalism either.

It’s got to be out there. Where?

I can write about the world, and my old hometown too, wherever I’m sitting, near the garden with old Zeus the Wonder Dog sleeping in the shade at my feet, using this gift and this wonderful opportunity given to me by God.

 “Have Laptop, Will Travel.”

I could set that laptop on a table at Bruna’s Ristorante on Oakley or at J.C.’s Pub in McCook and see Joe and the guys. Or from a diner on LaGrange Road.

Or on the front seat of my car looking out at an Indiana cornfield in this low-crime, low-tax paradise of Northwest Indiana and not have to fret about violent crime or dysfunctional politics.

I’m free. And they hate that. But really, I don’t give two figs.


(Copyright 2022 John Kass)

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