FEB. 11 UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune hired John Chase as deputy metro editor, said top editor Mitch Pugh. Chase, who previously worked at the Tribune for about two decades, will return to the paper on March 7. He most recently was director of investigations at Illinois watchdog Better Government Association. Chase will focus on politics, a vital role this year as midterms and a governor election loom, Pugh said.
“A lot of people here are excited to have him back,” said Pugh. “We think we can cover politics and government better than anybody else, so going out and getting someone of John’s caliber to help us do that, it was really important to us.”
So I have some *PROFESSIONAL NEWS*. I am leaving the @BetterGov after five great years to rejoin the @chicagotribune as a deputy metro editor. Much more to say about this and people to give proper credit to…
Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke is leaving the paper this week for a new job at USA Today.
Huppke is the last remaining Tribune columnist based in Chicago. Many of his former peers—including Heidi Stevens, Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Schmich and conservative columnist John Kass—departed the paper last year during buyouts offered after hedge fund Alden Global Capital took control of the paper.
The decision to leave was not an easy one, Huppke said. He’s been at the Tribune 19 years, starting as a general assignment reporter based in the suburbs. He covered gangs and crime, the legalization of same-sex marriage and other topics before launching a weekly workplace column. Then he was named columnist.
“I’ve effectively grown up at the Tribune. My wife and I were just married when I got there. Now we have two kids that are taller than me,” he said. “The fact that the Tribune not only tolerated, but embraced, whatever it is I do has always been really appreciated.”
His columns, typically infused with sarcasm and wit, approach current events through a humorous lens. The title of his most recent column: “The future of Soldier Field: A museum of incarcerated Illinois politicians? Maybe the world’s largest Dairy Queen?”
He plans to take a similar approach in his new gig as USA Today columnist. The topics will likely be broader, as he’ll be writing for a general audience.
“My default is always to try and find the humor in all of the weird stuff that is going on in the world, and try to use that as a way to make sense of things and get people to think about things,” he said. “That’s what I plan on keeping going.”
USA Today is owned by Gannett, a media company that has hundreds of daily newspapers in its portfolio. Huppke said he is leaving on good terms with the Tribune. His last day is tomorrow, and he is set to start with USA Today later this month.
“It just seemed like a good time to try something different, working for a different audience,” he said.
Tribune top editor Mitch Pugh, who has been on the job since late last summer, said Huppke will be missed.
“We’re bummed to see him go,” he said. “Not only is he a great journalist, he’s a great colleague and a great friend to a lot of people at the Tribune.”
Pugh said there are conversations underway about how to fill Huppke’s role, and what that will look like.
More than 40 people left the Tribune amid the buyouts last year, after Alden took control, including editors, reporters and columnists. The departure of top editors followed. The bylines of several of Huppke’s former fellow columnists still appear in the paper occasionally, through syndication deals.
Once Huppke departs, the lone Tribune columnist will be Clarence Page, who is based in Washington, D.C. Huppke said he hopes the paper elevates some new voices. “It’s a powerhouse newsroom still,” he said.
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