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Co-Founder / Pittsburgh Underground

Friday, June 15, 2018

PU It Stinks: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fires Political Cartoonist Rob Rogers

The gang here at Pittsburgh Underground really do our best to try to stay out of the political arena for more reasons than we can count, but mainly because it’s just plain ugly. We’re a pop culture website first and foremost, however, on rare occasion even we can’t turn a blind eye to injustices done, especially in the city we love so dearly.

It was announced today that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has fired long time political cartoonist and friend of good ol' PU, Rob Rogers. To say that we were completely floored by this news would be an understatement, especially due to the content of this man’s character -  incredibly good natured, generous, brilliantly talented, and a consummate professional. To say that we were lucky enough to get to know Rob in various ‘cartooning’ social circles throughout the years has been a true joy which is why the news of this firing came as such a shock.

Melting / Rob Rogers 2018

We live in an age where media reports on ‘men’ being fired due to sexual misconduct, corruption, and other nefarious acts seem to be fairly (if not sadly) commonplace, making it a lot harder on the rest of us that are just trying to lead decent lives in the best way we can. That’s why news of this announcement didn’t make sense. Rob Roger’s is a stand up guy who sheds light on incredibly tough subjects in a light hearted and creative way that (provided you have a sense of humor) can be enjoyed no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall under. 

Summit / Rob Rogers 2018

So if Rob Rogers didn’t get fired for being a lout, and he wasn’t stealing work supplies in order to cartoon, and his work has stood the test of time for a whooping 25 years as a valued employee of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette then what happened? 

In a nutshell, the once ‘liberal’ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has been poisoned from the inside out with Trump supporting owners and editors that rejected 19 of his ideas and cartoons since March 2018 due to ‘political differences’. Check out this interview with Rob Rogers on CNN.

Rob Rogers Addresses Firing From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / CNN 2018

Rob had stated that he was willing to cooperate with the publishers ‘to a degree’, but he wouldn’t draw cartoons he disagreed with. In essence, Rob Rogers was fired over his right to free speech which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt is no longer valued by the owners or editors at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Good Guy With A Gun / Rob Rogers 2018

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists recently issued a statement linking Rogers' situation to "the recent arrival of a Trump-supporting editorial page editor." 

Mayor Bill Peduto was recently quoted in a statement in response to the firing of Rob Rogers:

"The move today by the leadership of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to fire Rob Rogers after he drew a series of cartoons critical of President Trump is disappointing, and sends the wrong message about press freedoms in a time when they are under siege.

This is precisely the time when the constitutionally-protected free press – including critics like Rob Rogers – should be celebrated and supported, and not fired for doing their jobs. 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.

I've known Rob a long time. That has never stopped him from publishing cartoons that are critical of me, of my policy positions, or of my actions (or inactions) in office. He's even made fun of my weight. But he is one of the best in the world at his time-honored craft, and I know people of all political persuasions stand with me in support of him, even if the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette regrettably does not."

The culprit behind this latest misstep from the PG is Keith Burris who became the paper’s editorial director in March. Oddly, neither Burris nor conservative owner John Block has commented on the firing of Rob Rogers. Oddly,  in an article Burris posted in April 2018 on ‘A primer on opinion writing’ states that his ‘job’ as an opinion writer ‘should not pretend to play investigative reporters or sleuths. Their job is not to report the news, but to help readers make sense of the news and the world we live in. This is not a slight responsibility’. 

If an ‘opinion writer’ is to help make sense of the news and the world we live in, then why can’t he explain why they would fire Rob Rogers, who’s talent for ‘helping make sense of the news and the world we live in’ was evident in his political cartoons that were a staple of the Post-Gazette for the last two and a half decades? Maybe there’s only room for one guy to ‘explain the world we live in’ at the Post-Gazette, and that man is Burris. 

Our ‘opinion’ here at Pittsburgh Underground is that the move to fire a well received and established visual artist looks a lot like jealousy for a guy in a position of power that can write his opinions without a care in the world, but when someone who can do the same thing in not only an amusing way, but also a visual one crosses his path he does the only thing he can - get rid of his perceived rival. The act of a very small man indeed.

Publisher, editor-in-cheif, John Block has had controversy surrounding him at the beginning of this year as well due to an editorial that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and it’s sister paper The Blade of Toledo Ohio were forced to run on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with the goal of the piece to provide cover for and support of Donald Trump’s bemoaning that Haiti and African countries were “shithole” places of origin for many immigrants to America. “Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism,” the editorial opined. “Calling the president a racist helps no one—it is simply another way (the Russia and instability cards having been played unsuccessfully) to attempt to delegitimize a legitimately elected president.” And, it asserted, “There are nations that are hellholes … It is not racist to say that this country cannot take only the worst people from the worst places.”

Block, a strong Trump supporter, demanded that the piece run in both newspapers to the dread of the employees for both newspapers. Michael A. Fuoco, an enterprise reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh/CWA 38061 wrote an article about this debacle stating that ‘In the end, we decided to break precedent set during the 84 years of the Guild’s existence at the Post-Gazette and write a letter to the editor decrying an editorial. In the letter, signed by all 11 members of the local’s Executive Committee, we noted that Guild members were “collectively appalled and crestfallen by the repugnant editorial ‘Reason as Racism’”. You can read the full article here.

Immigrant Children / Rob Rogers 2018

With controversies that keep mounting from the owners of the floundering Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the firing of Rob Rogers should be the final straw for anyone  who values freedom of expression. When twelve people at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo died in 2015 for depicting Muhammad in cartoons it published they didn’t stop them from continuing on because they understood the value of this freedom. You may not always agree with what’s being said, but without continuing on with this type of expression we can’t grow as people to work out our differences or at a bare minimum, find some common ground. 

Sensitivity Training / Rob Rogers 2018

It’s a sad state of affairs when a 231 year old institution like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette falls so hard due to the failings of the wrong people in positions of power. The firing of political cartoonist Rob Rogers was the final shot. As far as Pittsburgh Underground is concerned... this means war. Free speech is no longer valued at the PG as it’s conservative minded owners and editors are interested in only one thing - spreading their own political agenda. This is the type of thing we were all warned about in any political science class that we attended throughout our formative years as we were warned that suppressing the free press is not only how dictatorships get started, but It truly undermines our democracy. 

We hear about the ‘undermining of our democracy’ a lot lately and it’s usually from people screaming it at the top of their lungs from both sides of the aisle. Most of us can’t help but flip the channel or turn off the device entirely when it happens. The problem is what do you do when it’s in your own back yard? 

It would be easy enough to say just don’t buy the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or end your subscription if you value free speech. The thing is, most people still want to know what’s going on in the local news. With that said, Pittsburgh Underground felt it would be best to list some alternatives to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette where you can still get everything and more than what the PG can provide, especially now that freedom of speech and expression is no longer a part of their core values which incidentally...


Here's a list of better alternatives to the censorship minded Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

KDKA TV - On the airwaves of Pittsburgh since 1949, you can get the news in real-time.

New Pittsburgh Courier - this Pittsburgh original has been catering to the African American community since 1966. News, sports, entertainment, business, and lots more for everyone!

Next Pittsburgh.coma woman-owned business, is the must-read Pittsburgh publication about the people driving change in our city and the innovative and cool things happening here.

Pittsburgh Current - New alt-weekly publication in both print and web formats by City Paper alums. Features current Rob Rogers' political cartoons!

Public Source / In-depth Stories for a Better Pittsburgh - Public service journalism for a Pittsburgh in need of substance over click-bait. Meaningful stories and inclusive journalism at it's best.

Pittsburgh Gem: Rob Rogers, Political Cartoonist

Also, anyone who needs to get their Rob Rogers fix including some exclusives at Rob's online store, you can visit him at the following links:

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