Why Kass is in Greece

There’s no doubt that Chicago is a world-class city. Through events such as the upcoming NATO summit, Chicago influences global affairs. And Chicago is influenced by international developments as well. You only need to stop at the gas station to see that.

For those reasons, the Tribune is always looking for ways to connect world news with local interests.

A month or so ago, Tribune Editor Gerould Kern came up with the idea of sending columnist John Kass to Greece to check out the economic tumult and raise questions about whether the problems there were a sign of things to come in deficit-wracked America. Being of Greek descent and immensely proud of it, John was the perfect candidate to take up the challenge. John suggested an even wider mission -- to visit Turkey as well, to see where Islam meets the West.

For the next two weeks, you’ll read the results, including John’s eyewitness report Wednesday from an emotional and angry protest in Athens after the suicide of a elderly man who reportedly was distraught over financial difficulties.

I edit John’s column, and I know how deeply he cares about the economic distress hurting both Greeks and Americans. Granted, John’s column can be funny – but it can be quite serious, especially when he’s within earshot of thousands of screaming protesters.

You can read more of Kass’s work abroad and in Chicago here.

John’s readers know that he likes to write about the moutza, the traditional Greek hand gesture signifying disgust. On the phone Wednesday from Athens, John told me that the moutzas he’s seeing in Athens are not the lighthearted gestures he might deliver in the Tribune newsroom. They’re deadly serious expressions of anger and disgust.

Because of John Kass, the Tribune’s readers are able to experience events far away that may shake Europe, with the tremors strongly felt in Chicago.

 -- Mark Jacob, deputy metro editor

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