Rob Rogers has been fired as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial cartoonist.
Rogers publicly acknowledged last week that his cartoons were being rejected because they did not align with the political views of the newspaper’s leadership. He then announced he was taking some time away while “until my employment status at the paper is resolved.”
Unlike the mysterious disappearance of his work from its pages, the Post-Gazette acknowledged his firing on its own website.
Editorial director Keith Burris denied Rogers’ firing was motivated by content of his work; rather, it was Rogers’ unwillingness to “collaborate” on ideas or be edited.
From the Post-Gazette:
Mr. Burris said Mr. Rogers was offered a deal in which he would be an independent contractor and produce two cartoons per week for the paper’s op-ed page along with his weekly strip, “Brewed on Grant.”
“We tried hard to find a middle way, an accommodation to keep him at the paper,” said Mr. Burris. …
“For an in-house staff cartoonist, editing is part of it. Rob’s view was, ‘Take it or leave it.’ ”
The case garnered national attention and included interviews with CNN’s Jake Tapper and a slew of opinion pieces from journalism groups and the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.
Support came to Rogers from within the Post-Gazette, from other cartoonists and even from some of the people he has painted in a less-than-flattering light.
Rob Rogers is a true talent we were honored to know as a colleague and friend. He deserved much better treatment.
— Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh ???? (@PGNewsGuild) June 14, 2018
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Mayor Bill Peduto called the firing disappointing, and said it sends the wrong message to readers “about press freedoms in a time when they are under siege.”
He said critics like Rogers should be “celebrated and supported” for the work they do, and noted that he himself has been portrayed negatively in Rogers’ cartoons.
“This decision, just one day after the President of the United States said the news media is ‘Our country’s biggest enemy,’ sets a low standard in the 232-year history of the newspaper,” Peduto said.
Former Post-Gazette columnist Dennis Roddy wrote an editorial last week lamenting the changes to the PG’s opinion pages.
“The PG opinion pages were the showcase for the paper’s commitment to the idea that a jolly good argument could be just that,” he wrote. “Liberals and conservatives alike went there for the adrenaline rush of being confronted with ideas they didn’t like but needed to hear.”
Roddy, too, was an occasional subject of Rogers’ work; he even admitted to wanting to choke the cartoonist “on more than one occasion.” And that was the point, Roddy said.
Cartoons are not supposed to “mirror the political position of the newspaper and its publisher,” Roddy wrote, adding it “flies in the face of what a political cartoonist is supposed to do.”