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What will the Tribune editorial board look like now?

Wednesday, Jun 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I haven’t talked much about the buyouts at the Tribune, but that paper’s editorial page continues to have an outsized influence on Illinois politics (deserved or otherwise) and there are some major changes afoot. Robert Feder

The buyouts may be over but the bleeding hasn’t stopped for the Chicago Tribune. On Tuesday Kristen McQueary, editor of the Tribune’s editorial page, announced that she’s quitting too. “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,” McQueary tweeted. “I applied for the buyout, but my application was not accepted. I’ll be pursuing other opportunities. Stay tuned!” It’s not known why McQueary’s buyout bid was rejected but her departure leaves the Tribune minus another stellar talent. “To be sure, she and I differ on quite a few issues, but I have no doubt of her integrity and her heart,” newly departed Tribune columnist Eric Zorn said of McQueary. “She ran the Edit Board with grace, energy and humor during a very difficult year and has the affection and appreciation of the liberals, the moderates and the conservatives whom she supervised.” McQueary joined the Tribune in 2012 from Chicago Public Media and the Chicago News Cooperative. The Rockford native and graduate of Illinois State University and the University of Illinois at Springfield previously worked for the Daily Southtown and Peoria Journal Star.

With much of the Chicago Tribune newsroom already being gutted under the new management of Alden Global Capital, it’s all hands on deck these days. In a surprise plot twist, Chris Jones, who’s been the Tribune’s esteemed theater critic for 20 years, is the favorite to replace McQueary as editorial page editor, sources say. It’s hard to imagine Jones bowing out as Chicago’s preeminent drama critic just when theaters are opening again. But it’s been hard to imagine a lot these days. Come to think of it, other than making money and wrecking newspapers, does Alden Global Capital even have an editorial philosophy?

* And Jones did, indeed, get the gig

In announcing Jones’s appointment, effective July 12, Par Ridder, general manager of Chicago Tribune Media Group, wrote in an internal email: “As Chicago’s pre-eminent culture critic, he has a deep understanding of the city, his home for 30 years, and has built a reputation as frank, fair-minded and scrupulously accurate. Can there be more important attributes for an editorial page editor?

“Chris is committed to upholding the Tribune’s leading citizen status, and its statement of principles, which include the newspaper’s commitment ‘to inform and lead public opinion, to foster commerce and industry, and to furnish that vital check upon government which no constitution can.’”

Jones, 57, joined the Tribune full-time in 2002. A native of Manchester, England, he was educated at University of Hull and The Ohio State University and taught at Northern Illinois University and DePaul University. He also wrote about theater for Variety.

“Today, the Tribune announced me as the new editorial page editor, meaning that I will be in working with a variety of opinion columns and joining an editorial board that is smaller than in the past. But, I hope, mighty in the city,” Jones wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

“I’m still the theater critic, which is important to me and the paper, and I will review the major shows as I have for the past 20 years. It is my hope that other, diverse, freelance voices will also join our theater coverage, going forward. While these are very challenging times at the paper, there remains a strong commitment to the Chicago theater.”

Personal attacks will be deleted.

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  1. - StatehouseDude - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 10:56 am:

    Cant get this outta my head today

  2. - Flyin' Elvis'-Utah Chapter - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 10:59 am:

    “Personal attacks will be deleted.”

    This will be a barren source of amusement.-Henry Drummond

  3. - TCE - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:05 am:

    New editorial page editor was accused here of marginalizing voices of working people and bias in favor of power and privilege. But isnt that required for this job?

  4. - Roadrager - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:05 am:

    Best wishes to Ms. McQueary in her new career with the Army Corps of Engineers.

  5. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:10 am:

    The tone and tenor of the editorial page will be different. That much is certain. With Kass gone from the pages and McQueary gone from editorial, the editorial page and its forgetfulness to reading the world class reporters might be something of the past.

    So much is said with few words here;

    ===… but that paper’s editorial page continues to have an outsized influence on Illinois politics (deserved or otherwise)===

    With McQueary leaving, and a theatre critic, or frankly anyone not McQueary, as the editor, the direction of the overly influential page could see significant balance and far more honesty to that influence it disproportionately has.

    Likely more oversight too… where layers of editorial oversight might not let slip past controversial interpretations to change, or callous endings that hurt people as trivial.

    Humanity to an editorial page doesn’t mean liberal, unless you find humanity too liberal for your taste. I can see, possibly, a more measured look, but still very pointed, at crime, fiscal responsibility, education, infrastructure, even politics, where having a take published on that page won’t be to push a contradiction of the paper’s reporting, but an enhancement of what Chicago, Chicagoland… Illinois… what we all need to see as the editorial allows commentary to facts… not to wanted agendas…

    It could be.

    It could be, and not be at all “liberal” but liberating for readers confused by the news reported and the spin the editorial board desired.

    It could be… but could be is doing a great deal of work in that possibility.

    One things for sure, we all might find it different.

  6. - ZC - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:15 am:

    Chris Jones already wielded frightening power over the Chicago theatrical community (though I thought he did a decent job and he was always good at championing the off-Loop; it was just that no one man should have all that power). Now the rest of Chicago notables will get a taste, what it’s like to live under his shadow.

    I remember talking to a former Goodman staffer who joked, they wanted to find someone named “Chris Jones” who liked their show and they would stick his name on all their promotionals.

  7. - Roman - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:17 am:

    Even in the face of nearly two decade of lost revenue, the Trib traditionally maintained high staffing levels in their op/ed section — closer to the size of national papers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. That’s because the Tribsters liked to think of themselves as a national (or at least regional) voice. No way the bean-counters at Alden were going to keep that in place. Just look at the statement from Jones — he’s going to do double-duty and remain the theatre critic. Now that’s efficient.

    Make sense for McQueary To bail. The Alden vultures were about to take her megaphone away or at least make it a heck of a lot smaller.

  8. - Bye bye, Trib - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:20 am:

    Were a lot of Trib editorials over the top? Of course. Will the columnists leaving really impact coverage and discussion? Some, not all. But Illinois has a lot of problems in part because of the politicians. They rallied against that and some of it was important.

  9. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:21 am:

    ===Were a lot of Trib editorials over the top?===

    Over the top doesn’t come close to describing that page.

  10. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:23 am:

    ===Were a lot of Trib editorials over the top?===

    Anarchists after reading the page were known to say “yeah, we don’t go *that* far”

    Natural disaster wishing notwithstanding

  11. - Norseman - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:29 am:

    Zorn was a good columnist, but I’d have to add his McQueary take as one of those times I disagree with his opinion.

  12. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:48 am:

    === But Illinois has a lot of problems in part because of the politicians. They rallied against that and some of it was important.===

    Meh. This is fluff and nonsense.

    Why? The editorial board these past times with McQueary at the helm and before her seemingly never read the newspaper they themselves were a part of.

    Along with the Illinois Policy Institute, rarely have two groups perpetuated a phony narrative in hopes that it could come to fruition… and Rauner’s colossal failure, cheered on by both, proved that to be more true.

  13. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:49 am:

    What will the Tribune editorial board look like now? My guess is it will look a lot like “RealClearPolitics” which accepts essays from a bunch of writers and posts them daily. Who knows, maybe Kass will get picked up back at the Tribune since he’s discovered that RCP will rerun his content there.

    Bonus, by publishing essays and op-eds that come in over the transom, the Tribune can get free content and the authors can say they were published. It’s a lost-cost, low-quality win win scenario.

  14. - Responsa - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 11:59 am:

    Kinda thinking that having a culture critic (even a pre-eminent one) as head of the editorial board of a lead regional newspaper is not the greatest of ideas. Man, the times they are a’changing.

  15. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:06 pm:

    I always enjoyed reading Zron, but I quit reading the editorial page 15 years ago and dropped my subscription entirely when they endorsed Rauner.

    McQueary is what she is. Not sure why, but good luck to her.

  16. - Swampy Corn - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:19 pm:

    The only people I ever hear reference the Tribune or, even rarer, the SunTimes editortorial pages are from the people on this blog. Neither paper has had clout beyond that in sometime.

  17. - Publius - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:20 pm:

    The old editorial board at work.

  18. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:23 pm:

    ===The only people I ever hear reference===

    Your anecdote is not data.

  19. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:29 pm:

    Anyone who thinks the Trib edit board is going to moderate itself, or restore its calculators even when GOPers are in charge is kidding themselves. I was a Hurricane Katrina hater along with most people but the truth is Bruce Dold (and history) was far more responsible for the insanity of that page. I don’t think it got materially worse under McQuery.

    Alden is an amoral company that doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as they get rich. Does that sound like a moderating influence? So my expectation? Meet the new editorial page, same as the old. And 47 is right, they’ll bring in outsiders and do this RCP-style and on the cheap.

  20. - Boone's is Back - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:33 pm:

    I don’t know Chris Jones and am unfamiliar with his prior work at the Trib. As Rich noted above the Editorial Board weighs in on many political issues and has a significant readership. How can they continue to do so without leadership that has close familiarity with the Illinois political landscape, its history, and its various interest groups? The Trib shakeup has been rough to witness but this latest move really makes me scratch my head.

  21. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:39 pm:

    === Kinda thinking that having a culture critic (even a pre-eminent one) as head of the editorial board of a lead regional newspaper is not the greatest of ideas.===


    Isn’t an editorial looking at the news and then editorializing the facts and looking, sometimes, at a bigger picture of the doings?

    Sounds like a great deal of art, not science, to the writings.

    And who knows what opinions may be printed now. Not seeing or seeking a massive upheaval, but the art to editorializing might become in vogue(?)

  22. - Amalia - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 12:45 pm:

    so, kinda like Frank Rich at NYT….going from theater to op ed political…..only more? There is only one chief theater critic in town in the two big papers, and that is Chris Jones and he can make or break a show. Lately he’s been writing all sorts of things for the paper and the articles are good. no idea what his management style is like. wonder what football club he pulls for….

  23. - Lincoln Lad - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 1:55 pm:

    Good riddance to Kass and to McQueary…

  24. - @misterjayem - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 1:57 pm:

    As a wisenheimer on twitter said:

    I personally hope this “unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury” at the Tribune allows McQuery to “hit the reset button.”

    – MrJM

  25. - low level - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 2:13 pm:

    In her own words she “applied for the buyout but it wasn’t accepted”. Kass’ was accepted but hers wasn’t? Interesting

    Doesnt sound like she’s “quitting” unless I’m missing something.

  26. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 2:40 pm:

    ===Kass’ was accepted but hers wasn’t? Interesting===

    Kass has been at the Tribune since at least 1990. McQueary is relatively new. And she’s younger than Kass, and Zorn, and Schmich and some of the others.

    Buyouts usually are targeted to long-time employees above a certain age. Like the rule of 85, except it’s not a rule at all, more of a guideline. Companies use these to replace older, higher paid employees with younger, lower paid employees. The point is to give the older employees an incentive to leave voluntarily.

  27. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 2:55 pm:

    A theatre critic?
    How apropos.
    Chicago and Illinois politics are so Shakespearean.

  28. - Crash - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 4:05 pm:

    With regard to McQueary, can someone clarify the details?
    Her request for a buyout was denied.
    Does that mean she left voluntarily or does it indicate that she was pushed?

    I thought a lot of the Trib people were taking buy outs for financial security. It makes me wonder if she saw the new team as completely toxic, or if they just nudged her out.

  29. - Blue Lakes - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 4:09 pm:

    ===The only people I ever hear reference===

    I ran for a local office relatively recently and stood in front of an early voting site (legally) for days talking to voters. Almost all mentioned the Daily Herald endorsements in the races or the Tribune for up ticket races. I was honestly surprised how many people had looked the races up in the paper before coming to vote.

    Anecdotes are not data but when it comes down to the simplest source to find out who to vote for (and for how to feel about issues), I believe the newspapers still have a huge influence.

  30. - granville - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 5:31 pm:

    “It is my hope that other, diverse, freelance voices will also join our theater coverage.”

    “… other, diverse, FREELANCE voices…”

    The mentality of this just really bugs me. Surely theater critic would be at least a part-time position and you would think someone who has zoomed into a senior editorial position at the paper would be ARGUING for this rather than conceding that a handful of freelancers can do it (for no benefits and no steady pay).

  31. - Many Saints of Will County - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 6:32 pm:

    @Blue Lakes - I think you are 100% spot on. I think things like Facebook and the Patch websites have their place but it does worry me at times that as they appear to slowly replace local papers statewide that the comments section might replace people looking reading thought out endorsements and candidate responses to reporter questions.

  32. - JoanP - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 8:22 pm:

    @granville -

    The Trib’s classical music coverage is now done by a freelancer. And they probably wouldn’t even have that if the hadn’t received funding from the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism.

    I don’t think they have anyone covering jazz since Howard Reich left.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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