“Immigrant children”. Rob Rogers, 1 June 2018
When the medium a cartoonist works for for 25 years doesn’t publish the cartoon of the day, it can be considered an anecdote or a mistake. Or they’re pointing the door at you. I don’t know a cartoonist to whom this hasn’t happened at some point, but when 19 cartoons are rejected in a very short time, the matter can be considered a serious problem.
Update 14 June 2018. Just a week later, Rob Rogers announced thus was fired:
“I’m sad to report the news: today, after 25 years as editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I was laid off.”
Trump in almost all of the discarded cartoons
Most of the 19 cartoons censored by the paper featured Donald Trump. These are 1o of those rejected cartoons.
Pointing the finger at the editor
Jhon Block’s avowed sympathy for Donald Trump is for many the cause of the Rogers cartoons. John Robinson Block of Block Communications, owner of the Post-Gazette and The Blade, has publicly confessed to being a Trump supporter. In 2016 he met the now-president on his private plane after a campaign rally. He further wrote that it was a “more than memorable” experience
The Post-Gazette was also criticised in November 2016 for an article entitled, ‘A guide to deciding: Twelve tests for choosing between Clinton and Trump’. Many understood this text as a covert endorsement of Trump.
In January 2018, an editorial entitled, ‘Reason as racism: An immigration debate gets derailed‘, received criticism from former Post-Gazette staffers and major foundations in Pittsburgh. It was also rejected by 150 employees of the paper, who wrote to the editor in a letter. In it, they pointed out that the text was a defence of President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric.
Members of Block’s family also criticised the editorial. Sixteen friends and family members of John Robinson Block signed a joint letter, which was published in the Post-Gazette, stating that the piece violated the paper’s legacy of fighting for civil rights.
John Robinson Block is the nephew of William Block, who ran the paper for nearly 60 years and who, according to his family, was “a champion of civil rights and freedom of the press”.
Censorship without explanation
On 6 June, Rob Rogers told in an interview to radio station 90.5 WESA that he had been silent for several days. He felt that it was time to say something about it, as quite a few people were angry about it.
Rogers, who declined to reveal the contents of private conversations with the newspaper, said:
“In general, I was not given a reason” why the paper had “killed” the cartoons. Since March, they had rejected 10 complete cartoons and nine other sketches of proposed ideas were also rejected.”
“I just want to keep doing my job”
One of the 9 rejected sketches.(Source)
On 8 June, the author told Michael Cavnasin an article in Comic Riffs in The Washington Post, the author said that during his nearly 34-year career, on average only two or three cartoons a year had been rejected by his editors.
However, since March this year, he has had nine cartoon ideas “killed” and ten finished ones. Six of them between 25 May and 4 June. In that time, for Keith Burris, his supervising editor this year, none of his drawings were deemed worthy of publication in the Post-Gazette.
“They finally published one of my cartoons – this week – for the first time since May 24.”
“An internal matter unrelated to politics, ideology or Donald Trump.”
The closest thing to a reply is this ambiguous statement by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which could be read during an interview to Rob Rogers on CNN.
“This is an internal staff matter that we are working hard to resolve. It has little to do with politics, ideology or Donald Trump. It’s mostly to do with teamwork and the editing process.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newsroom gathered to hear Rob Rogers on CNNspeaking on CNN about the rejection of his cartoons.
The AAEC (American Association of Editorial Cartoonists) issued a statement the AAEC (American Association of Editorial Cartoonists) also said that it didn’t take a keen observer to link the absence of Rob’s cartoons to the arrival of a Trump-friendly publisher.
They also took the opportunity to remind all editors that their responsibility is to their readers and to the search for truth. That the editorial pages are a public forum, not a private resort in Florida for members only. The equivalent of saying something to the effect that it’s not “their cortijo”.
Pat Bagleythe AAEC president also said that cartoonists “fight” with their editors all the time, but that in his 40 years in the profession he had never seen a situation like Rogers’.
“Rarely do my cartoons get rejected, but it happens,” Bagley said, although “this Rogers thing is a little different because it’s kind of a ‘blanket’ (I’m guessing it’s some slang expression or phrase synonymous with plugging).”
Dennis Roddy, a former editor and columnist for the Post-Gazette, blasts Keith Burris in an article and adds:
“Editorial cartoonists are the paper’s internal dissenters, the equivalent of a toddler with a snowball in his hand, who sees a top hat passing on the other side of the fence and simply can’t resist.”
On 10 June, a group of Rogers supporters demonstrated outside 34 Boulevard of the Allies, the former Post-Gazette building, with posters of cartoons not published by the paper. Others carried signs calling for freedom of the press or comparing press censorship to propaganda.
In the end, the cartoonist chose to communicate on his Facebook account that he was taking a few days off until he knew how his relationship with the paper was going and took the opportunity to thank all the support he had received.
“I want to thank all my friends, family, colleagues, fans and readers in Pittsburgh and beyond. Your outpouring support and well wishes have lifted my spirits immensely. I love what I do. Now, more than ever, I believe in the power of satire and the public dialogue it can create. Thank you for being part of that dialogue.
I can’t go into details here, but I felt it best under the circumstances to take a few days off until the post-Gazette issues are resolved.
I can’t thank you enough for your support.”
On June 14, 2018, Rob Rogers was fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The paper has issued no official statement, other than this note from Stephen Spolar.
“The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not provide details on employee matters, but in light of Mr Rogers’ public comments today, we want to acknowledge his long service to the paper and our community.” Source CBS Pittsburgh
Later, from the paper itselflater, some details of what they had tried to negotiate became known, in which they took the opportunity to deny again that their cartoons were censored.
Keith Burris said Mr Rogers, 59, was offered a deal whereby he would be a freelance contributor and draw two cartoons a week for the paper’s opinion page along with his weekly strip, “Brewed on Grant”.
“We tried our best to find a middle way, an arrangement to keep him at the paper,” he said. Burris.
He said he did not “suppress” Mr Rogers’ cartoons, but that Mr Rogers was unwilling to “collaborate” with him about his work and ideas.
“We never said he shouldn’t do any more cartoons about Trump or do pro-Trump cartoons,” Mr. Burris said. “For a staff cartoonist, the editing is part of the job. Rob’s vision was ‘Take it or leave it.’
The reading that can be made of this is that Rogers refused to be marked up on issues or pretend to influence the ideas in the cartoons.
Related: “I got fired for making fun of Trump“by Rob Rogers.
18/06/2018 – Interview with Rob Rogers at CRNI
Rob Rogers received the Thomas Nast Award from the Overseas Press Club in 2000 and the National Headliner Award in 1995. In 1999 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He has won twelve Golden Quill Awards(AAEC profile)
A couple of notes
I am surprised, for the better, by the public debate generated. It has even existed among the workers of the medium and the different voices defending that the cartoonists act as a counterweight, even as dissidents, of the editorial line of the medium where they work to offer other points of view.
What is most often heard around here when something like this happens is the traditional: “it’s their medium and they fuck it however they want” or “if they already knew that the medium breathed like this, they shouldn’t have jumped in the puddle”, etc.
It is also remarkable that the readers, even two or two hundred of them, have demonstrated at the doors of the newspaper to defend the work of the cartoonist. As far as I remember, I have never seen a similar demonstration in front of a newspaper here. If I’m wrong, let me know.
Related, more than a hundred cases all over the world.