June 20, 2018
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fires an editorial cartoonist for being “too angry”
by Alex Primiani
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has come under fire over the firing of a veteran cartoonist, reports Daniel Lippman at Politico.
According to Lippman, the paper’s publisher, John Block, felt cartoonist Rob Rogers’s illustrations were “angry and mean” instead of “clever and funny.” Rogers’s cartoons were also deeply critical of Donald Trump and his administration, something that no doubt put the publisher of the increasingly right-wing paper on edge.
Lippman spoke to Block, who said: “[Rogers] just become too angry for his health or for his own good… He’s obsessed with Trump.” For further elucidation, Lippman paraphrases Black as adding, “Editorial cartoonists should augment the positions of the newspaper they work for, not stray too far from them.”
Lippman also points out the current political stance of the influential paper: “The Post-Gazette covers a key area in a critical swing state that helped elect Trump president in 2016. The paper helps to shape the views of Trump supporters and others among his base of voters in their state, which will likely play an important role in 2020 as well.”
And while the Post-Gazette covers a large swath of politically murky territory, Block says the recent shutdown of its conservative rival paper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, has brought a good number of conservative readers. “‘We’re trying to have some acceptability to them too,’ he said.”
The larger question of journalism’s role in politics, of course, hangs over this whole charade of a decision.
“Mr. Block mistakes a strong opinion, particularly one he doesn’t agree with, as anger. I see it as my job to critique injustices. I don’t see that as anger, nor do many readers or fellow journalists.”
In an op-ed for the New York Times this past Saturday, Rogers talks of the paper’s decision to fire him, and the role cartoonists play in modern politics. “Our job is to provoke readers in a way words alone can’t. Cartoonists are not illustrators for a publisher’s politics.”
Rogers is no longer employed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is still creating political cartoons. His work will be syndicated throughout the United States, and you can follow him here, too.
Alex Primiani is senior publicist at Melville House.