Local News Seems to be Punching Left

Within the last several months, we’ve seen a broadcasting company that owns several Pennsylvania stations agree to exchange positive coverage for access to the president.

Last month, a Pittsburgh City Paper editor claimed he was fired for criticizing a conservative.

This week, an award-winning political cartoonist confirmed his work has been silenced by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

While many journalists can expect to have disagreements with their editors, the recent and more heavy-handed influence from above has some wondering whether liberal voices are being driven out of even traditionally left-of-center outlets.

Longtime cartoonist Rob Rogers, whose work has appeared in the Post-Gazette for 25 years, had several drawings rejected over the last two weeks.

“I think it is fairly obvious that the paper and editorial page in particular has shifted its slant,” Rogers told CNN on Wednesday. “It was always a liberal paper and now it is shifting. And it has happened more dramatically since Trump was elected.”

And the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists pulled no punches in its statement released earlier this week in support of Rogers:

 

The longtime cartoonist for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has gone missing. Actually, we know exactly where Rob Rogers is—at his desk creating the excellent award-winning editorial cartoons he is famous for. But it’s those cartoons that have been missing for over a week from the Post-Gazette editorial pages, though we know Rob is drawing them because new cartoons are being posted on the web.

It doesn’t take much to connect the dots between the absence of Rob’s left-leaning cartoons and the recent arrival of a Trump-supporting editorial page editor. We would take this opportunity to remind all editorial page editors that their responsibility is to the readers (among whom in Pittsburgh, Rogers cartoons are wildly popular) and to the open and ongoing search for truth in contending opinions. The editorial pages are a public forum, not a members-only private resort in Florida.

Keith Burris, the Post-Gazette’s editorial director, told KDKA the issue with Rogers was a personnel matter and many other executives at the paper have declined to comment further.

But Rogers is only the most recent example of editorial decisions that seem to have been influenced from outside the newsroom.

Former Pittsburgh City Paper Editor Charlie Deitch said he was abruptly fired in May after refusing to back off from his criticism of state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, whom Deitch had described as a bigot unfit for office.

His comments upset his general manager, who asked Deitch to “redirect your anti Metcalf [sic] efforts toward let’s say maybe Pittsburgh politics.”

Deitch’s former bosses denied politics played a role in his firing.

The confirmed deal between Sinclair Broadcast Group and then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in 2016 may have set the tone for some of these later editorial disputes.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner acknowledged the Sinclair agreement that would allow the president’s message to reach a wide audience without commentary or pushback.

Some employees fought the “must-run” commentary. One producer, Justin Simmons, wrote about his experiences and what finally led him to quit, though he said he worried about his colleagues whose contracts could make finding another job more difficult.

For his part, Rogers announced on Twitter he was using some of his vacation days while he works out issues with the Post-Gazette.

On Tuesday, The Incline’s Colin Deppen reached out to media business analyst Rick Edmonds, of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, who said rejected cartoons and killed stories aren’t always censorship.

But he acknowledged the role the president has played in recent media decisions:

 

“Cartoonists are subject to editing and sometimes rejection of their submissions, same as anyone else. This is not, as it is sometimes called, censorship, though it may come close since the disagreement is likely to be over the opinion expressed and edginess rather than craft or documentation. Not sure it is more [than that] (remember Doonesbury?) though it can be a big step down the path to divorce in an instance like this,” he said, adding, “And maybe it goes without saying … the temper of Trumpian times makes clashes over this sort of content all the more likely.”

June 7th, 2018 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Presidential, Top Stories | 14 Comments

14 thoughts on “Local News Seems to be Punching Left”

  1. Josh says:

    Over 90% of mainstream media coverage of Trump is negative. Fake News headline: “Trump looked the wrong way this morning!” Establishment media are now openly and unabashedly a partisan communication arm of one political party. Resulting loss of media credibility means that removing or redirecting the most caustic examples or sources in attempt to somewhat right the ship. As expected all the Leftwing groups whine and complain. Whatever. The editors know the consumers of news are tired of the open disrespect being shown to the president and the angry hate heaped on the “other” political party. You guys can complain, but that’s inside baseball stuff. Average reader or consumer of news is rejecting the partisan garbage you’ve been force feeding them the past five decades. Adapt or fail. Wait, you don’t like competition? Awww so sorry.

  2. Scoop says:

    Since when has there been a left of center news bias at all in major Pennsylvania news outlets? If there is one, let me know, because we have the right of center, anti-labor Philadelphia Inquirer where I live.

    1. Josh says:

      Your comment indicates just how leftward liberals have gone. If you go down a list of major political issues, and look how the Philly Inquirer reports on them, it’s evident that it’s a very liberal leftist newspaper. It’s not anti Union. It’s anti Union corruption. But liberals are just fine n dandy with corruption that supports THEIR favored political outcomes.

  3. Larry says:

    This week, we just cancelled the Post-Gazette after 30 years of subscription. It has become nothing more than Fox News Pittsburgh. I guess that Bolck’s kooky theories about liquor advertising saving his newspaper and swinging right on his editorial policy sells papers to right wing nuts. All it does is force cancellations from the rest of us normal people in Pittsburgh who believe in sanity from elected officials at the national and local levels. RIP all those great reporters and editors who believed in the true ideals of journalism and the first amendment. Shame on the rest of the family ownership for letting him ruin your family’s grand legacy.

  4. Charlie Pont says:

    I did not know we had any right of center daily newspapers in Pennsylvania other than the Tribune-Review. It just the usual fare of Left and further Left wing journalism

    1. Deitsch Einwohner says:

      Reading Eagle-a little more than center right

    2. Scoop says:

      Pennsylvania has never had much of a left of center news bias. It’s always been slightly right of center, as even ones claiming to be “centrist” lean right by saying “both parties are the same” and generally never holding conservatives, especially now in the age of Trump wackiness, accountable.

  5. AnonYmous says:

    This is great journalism. Thanks for covering something Paul never would have.

  6. Brad Kirsch says:

    When media becomes a victim of not getting news unless it goes along with not commenting on that news we have reached a dangerous time in this nation.

    Let the right post what is right and the left post what is left and let the readers decide what is worthy of their attention at the elections.

  7. JRH731 says:

    When the media is left-leaning, everything is OK. But when there is an attempt to perhaps go to the Center, it is an attack on “independence.” Maybe it would be nice to have balanced reporting of both sides!

    1. Phil Hughes says:

      Reporting is reporting. It goes down the middle. I always laugh when righties allege that respectable news organizations don’t go after Dems or progressives. They ALWAYS do! What they don’t do, which pisses the right off even more, is wax and pontificate the right’s versions of events. Did anyone see a former Fox contributor this week bash them for propaganda? Perhaps it would be best for everyone to understand the role of the news media. It’s not there to advocate left or right. It’s there to ask tough questions – of both sides – and find the truth. For some unknown reason, the right can’t handle that.

  8. Isaac L. says:

    Great piece! Attacking journalistic independence is unacceptable, regardless of who is doing it. Let the facts drive the story. This must-run stuff, masquerading opinion as straight news, is scary stuff.

  9. Other Chris says:

    It’s really nice to have this sort of journalism on this website again. Well done!

  10. Same Old Same Old says:

    The media conglomerates are a danger to democracy (small “d”) and silencing reporters is bad for free speech. The balance will be in social media is are harder to constrain. But we should as a society not take lightly silencing 25 year cartoonists nor respected reporters. This is absolutely not good for freedom of speech.

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