Last week, award-winning editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers announced that he had been fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after a tenure of 25 years.
Conflict between the cartoonist and the Post-Gazette leadership had been brewing for weeks, with its new editorial director, Keith Burris, refusing to publish several of Rogers’ cartoons, many of which were critical of President Trump.
In a statement following his firing, Rogers charged that “the Post-Gazette’s leadership has veered away from core journalistic values that embrace diverse opinions and public discourse on important issues.” In the Post-Gazette’s own coverage of the firing of Rogers, Burris claimed that he did not “suppress” Rogers’ cartoons, but that Rogers was unwilling to “collaborate” with him about his work and ideas; Burris acknowledged that he is “more conservative” than past editorial page editors.
Rogers’ firing from the Post-Gazette comes on the heels of last month’s firing of another longtime Pittsburgh journalist — Charlie Deitch — editor of The Pittsburgh City Paper. Deitch told news outlets that he was fired in response to his critical coverage of conservative state lawmaker Daryl Metcalfe. The publishers of the paper denied Deitch was fired because of his coverage of Metcalfe.
We admittedly do not have enough facts to definitively determine why either Rogers or Deitch was fired. But America’s current tense partisan atmosphere, serving as the backdrop for the squelching of these two journalistic voices, brings us to consider the role of a newspaper.
Ideally, we believe, a newspaper should be a source for truth in its coverage of events and leaders, as well as a place where community members can be exposed to an array of opinions — some reinforcing their own, and others challenging their views and perspectives. In our current divisive political climate, offering readers a range of opinions is needed now more than ever.
A 2014 Pew survey showed that the American public is becoming more and more ideologically consistent. While in 2004 only about 10 percent of Americans were either uniformly liberal or conservative, in just 10 years that number doubled; and as ideological consistency has increased, so has partisanship.
Our own experience has shown that some readers become offended when they read an opinion piece in the Chronicle that does not align with their own political leanings or religious perspectives. In any given week, we can receive feedback from some readers accusing the paper of being too “left-wing,” while other readers, commenting on the very same edition, charge us with being allied with the “right.”
We are sensitive to the diverse nature of our community and are committed to run news and opinions reflective of our community as a whole, in all its multiple dimensions including political viewpoints and religious affiliation.
In our news coverage, the Chronicle aims to be factual, objective and neutral, not slanting news coverage in any political or religious direction. In the opinion section, the Chronicle publishes a wide variety of viewpoints on a wide variety of issues, ranging from pretty far left to pretty far right, again reflecting the diversity of the Pittsburgh Jewish community. When possible, we run opposing views on an issue. We also encourage readers to join the discussion by writing letters to the editor or op-eds in response to content that we publish.
In this day and age of extreme partisanship, we believe that it is our mission to print pieces that will inform, engender respectful dialogue and educate on the wide variety of issues that are important to Jewish Pittsburgh. You may not agree with everything we print, but we do hope you will keep an open mind and keep reading. PJC