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Pulitzer Prize finalist Rob Rogers was fired in June after 25 years as the political cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In the three months leading up to his termination, 19 of his cartoons or proposals — most of which depicted the president or hot-button issues like immigration — had been rejected by the newspaper.
Rogers has since made the media rounds, bringing awareness to his story. He told Salon:
It was a slow build. Three months ago when the new editor took over, I had a real sense that this day was coming. I knew we were not seeing eye to eye. I also knew that if I continued to do my job in the way it needed to be done that I was going to be butting heads with management. But it was a little bit of a shock that they didn’t try harder to keep me.
The Post-Gazette’s editorial board issued a statement regarding Rogers’ termination, and several of its employees involved in the decision have defended their political views and the newspaper’s mission.
How do cartoons that offer commentary fit into our political reality and the editorial landscape at large? Ann Telnaes, cartoonist for the Washington Post and former president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, says now is the time when editorial cartoons are most necessary:
The job of an editorial cartoonist is to expose the hypocrisies and abuses of power by the politicians and powerful institutions in society. I think our role has become even more urgent with the new political reality in 2017. Political dog whistles have become red meat to be tossed out regularly by politicians without the slightest attempt to conceal racism or sexism. Except for journalists and cartoonists, there’s no one keeping a check on conflicts of interest or unethical behavior in government.
These days, political division is one of many factors that might put a cartoonist’s job on the line. With print newspapers dying, the demand for cartoonists in the newsroom has waned.
But paradoxically, social media and the democratizing power of the internet have given cartoonists unprecedented exposure. According to Telnaes:
The future is here. Because the internet opens up different mediums for cartooning, there are more cartoonists, especially younger ones, who are expressing their opinions through their art.
How will the industry continue to evolve amidst changing political and economic circumstances? And what do editorial cartoons capture that other media forms don’t?
You can see some of Rogers’ unpublished cartoons on display at a new exhibit in Washington, DC.
- Rob Rogers Former editorial cartoonist, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He was let go last month after a series of his cartoons criticizing President Trump were killed by the paper; @Rob_Rogers
- Pat Bagley President, Association of American Editorial Cartoonists; editorial cartoonist, The Salt Lake Tribune; @Patbagley
- Ann Telnaes Pulitzer prize-winning editorial cartoonist, The Washington Post; @AnnTelnaes
- Scott Stantis Editorial cartoonist, The Chicago Tribune; creator of the comic "Prickly City"; @ScottStantis
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