TOO LEFT FOR THE RIGHT … ‘YOU’RE FIRED!’

Cartoons about Trump’s policies by Rob Rogers that PittsburghPG refused to publish. Then he was fired.

Images by Rob Rogers

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Cartoonist Fired as Paper Shifts Right

By Kim Lyons

Rob Rogers joined The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as a staff editorial cartoonist in 1993 and for years his cartoons have appeared in the newspaper roughly five days a week. But in late May, around Memorial Day, he said, they began disappearing.

In just over a week, Mr. Rogers said, six of them were killed, one after it had been placed on a page. The first of the killed cartoons, which Mr. Rogers posted to social media and on his website, depicted President Trump placing a wreath on a tombstone that read “Truth, Honor, Rule of Law.”

Over the past three months, Mr. Rogers said, 19 cartoons or proposals for cartoons were rejected by either the editorial page editor, Keith Burris, or the publisher, John Robinson Block.

Mr. Rogers did not receive an official explanation for why the cartoons were killed, he says, but he was presented with a set of guidelines that included setting certain conditions on his work and an approval process for his cartoons.

“I felt they were going to be able to restrict my ability to do my job,” said Mr. Rogers, who declined to give specifics about the guidelines.

“I think they were definitely trying to send me a message,” he added. “It felt like they were pushing me out.”

On Thursday, his suspicions were confirmed when he was fired during an off-site meeting with two Post-Gazette human resources representatives.

“They said, ‘This is your last day,’” he said. “It was like those movies you see on TV where the cop has to hand in his badge and his gun, only I was afraid they were going to ask for my pen.”

Mr. Burris said The Post-Gazette offered to allow Mr. Rogers to continue working as an independent contractor, but Mr. Rogers declined.

The firing is the latest controversy involving the newspaper’s editorial pages. In January, The Post-Gazette and its sister paper, The Toledo Blade, published an editorial titled “Reason as Racism” that defended President Trump’s stance on immigration despite his profane description of countries like Haiti or those in Africa when discussing the issue. Mr. Burris, then the editorial page editor of The Blade, was the author of the editorial, which drew condemnation from the Post-Gazette newsroom, some members of the Block family and from outside critics.

Mr. Rogers is unabashedly liberal and many of his cartoons, including several the paper refused to publish, were critical of President Trump.CreditRoss Mantle for The New York Times

In March, the papers’ owner, Block Communications, merged the editorial pages of the two publications, appointing Mr. Burris as editor, vice president and editorial director. He has since written several editorials praising the president, part of a rightward shift by the once-liberal editorial page.

Mr. Burris said Friday that while he may be more to the right than Mr. Rogers, his goal is to make sure The Post-Gazette is “independent and thoughtful” in its approach, without any ideological intent.

“I’m certainly not in Trump’s base and I don’t think our publisher is, we just don’t think he’s Satan,” Mr. Burris said. “We never said ‘don’t do Trump cartoons.’ A Trump cartoon every day is not interesting, and a Trump cartoon every day that’s not funny and is just enraged is not particularly effective.”

Mr. Burris added that his role in some of the changes to the editorial page has been overstated. “This sort of portrayal of me as a right-wing yahoo riding in on a steed from Ohio with a red cap on is just silly and it’s belied by — well, just read my stuff.”

But on the Post-Gazette’s Friday editorial page, a statement attributed to the editorial board professed “gratitude and affection” for Mr. Rogers. “There has never been any intention to silence or suppress Mr. Rogers. Nor would we ever ask him to violate the dictates of his conscience. Rather, we have sought to engage in the necessary journalistic practices of editing, gatekeeping and collaboration.”

Mr. Rogers, whose cartoons are unabashedly liberal, said he was uneasy about his future at the paper from the time Mr. Burris was brought on board. “They clearly had a mission to change the editorial page and I wasn’t getting in line so they decided it was time to change the cartoon as well,” he said.

Mr. Burris said he did not enter into his working relationship with Mr. Rogers with any expectations.

“I don’t think it was doomed from the start,” Mr. Burris said. “But it’s like when a marriage is in trouble and you go to mediation or a counselor, you both have to really buy into it. Sometimes one party just can’t help it; they’re just too angry to buy into it.”

A 1999 Pulitzer Prize finalist, Mr. Rogers has won numerous awards for his work, which is syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate.

“The firing of Rogers and the absence of his cartoons from the editorial pages is a blow to free expression and to the existence of a free and open marketplace of ideas,” Pat Bagley, president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, said in a statement.

Mr. Rogers said his work would continue to appear in syndication and on social media. He also has plans for other projects.

“I can’t imagine during the next few years of the Trump presidency that I won’t be at my drawing table most days,” he said.

4 Comments

  1. Lt. Fuzzy Pants said,

    June 18, 2018 at 18:25

    ““I felt they were going to be able to restrict my ability to do my job,” said Mr. Rogers, who declined to give specifics about the guidelines.”

    well you lost me right there rogers. i refuse to worry about any concerns that you only allude to without giving specifics.

  2. June 18, 2018 at 19:40

    People still purchase newspapers? Why? What do people still pay to have some group of propagandists lie to them?

  3. Flart Blooger said,

    June 18, 2018 at 21:32

    meh,
    those two cartoons are hardly anything bad compared to other cartoonists work on the left. me thinks there is more to the story that we’re not being told. is the management new? is this something personal that came up since may? of course, the way this is being portrayed in other media is that he was fired for being anti trump. lumped in with the mainstream media’s assertion that trump is waging a war against “the media” .

    one can only wonder who’s waging war against whom.

  4. June 19, 2018 at 19:12

    Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.


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