The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and its recently hired editorial director, Keith Burris, may be on the verge of another controversy over the direction of its editorial page. Over the past week, the paper has not published five cartoons by its editorial cartoonist, Rob Rogers.
Reached by 90.5 WESA, Rogers declined to comment. But in a social media post last week, he posted a cartoon mocking controversial comedian Roseanne Barr with the notation “another killed cartoon. 4th in a row.”
Sylvia Rhor, Rogers’ significant other, authored a Thursday Facebook post of her own, saying she’d been asked why his cartoons hadn’t appeared recently. “Rob is not on vacation,” she wrote. “His cartoons haven’t made it to the paper over the last week because they have been killed by the PG.”
Burris did not respond to calls and emails for comment made in the late afternoon Friday and over the weekend.
Rogers routinely posts his cartoons on Twitter and Facebook, but none of the work he posted last week appeared in the Post-Gazette. The most recent cartoon the paper posted online is dated May 23; it was also published in the May 24th print edition. Some of the cartoons Rogers has posted since mocked President Donald Trump -- with whom publisher John Robinson Block was photographed during the 2016 election. Others, like the cartoon referring to Barr, did not refer to the president.
Here are five cartoons that Rogers tweeted, that do not appear on the Post-Gazette's site:
— Rob Rogers (@Rob_Rogers) May 25, 2018
— Rob Rogers (@Rob_Rogers) May 27, 2018
— Rob Rogers (@Rob_Rogers) May 30, 2018
— Rob Rogers (@Rob_Rogers) May 31, 2018
— Rob Rogers (@Rob_Rogers) June 1, 2018
Rogers has been cartooning in Pittsburgh since 1984, and his work has been reprinted in national publications including The New York Times and The Washington Post. While the Post-Gazette’s newsroom is unionized, Rogers is not a union member and thus has fewer protections from termination. Sources inside the paper confirm he was still employed by the paper as of Friday.
Burris had previously been the editorial-page editor for the Post-Gazette’s sister paper, the Toledo Blade. While the two papers have shared editorial content in the past, he first drew public attention in Pittsburgh after the paper published “Reason as Racism,” which defended President Donald Trump from charges of racism. (The editorial was unsigned, but Block later confirmed it had been written by Burris.) The Post-Gazette printed that editorial on Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Its publication prompted condemnation from newspaper staff, the leadership of local foundations, and other members of the Block family.
Burris was promoted to the post of vice president, editor and editorial director for both Block papers in March. The following month, he penned a primer on the opinion page which argued that editorials and opinion columns should demonstrate “a willingness to re-examine and think outside the orthodoxies and the ideological boxes. We must be willing to disappoint and even offend.”
Chris Potter was previously employed at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.