Rob Rogers Matters

It seems right to thank Rob Rogers in kind: when the corrupt LA Times fired me, he watched my back with his own thoughtful observations about my plight.

Rob was fired today by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he had worked for the last 25 years. Overall, he has worked as a professional full-time political cartoonist for 33 years. This was not your garden-variety “let’s lay off the cartoonist so we can pay upper middle management even bigger bonuses” dismissal. After a couple of years of serious handwringing on the part of America’s Democratic Party-dominated editorial cartoonist community, Rogers has emerged as one of the first true victims of a Donald Trump-inspired purge.

Determined to move the P-G into a more pro-Trump editorial orientation, the publisher brought in a new editorial director, Keith Burris, whom he charged, among other things, with either bringing Rogers in line — convincing him to either draw pro-Trump cartoons or simply lay off the president entirely — or figure out a way to get rid of him. Anyone who knows Rob Rogers, or for that matter any decent political cartoonist, could guess that the odds of him agreeing to change his political orientation 180° was likely to fail. What the Post-Gazette wanted was a throwback to the political cartooning of over 100 years ago, when publishers dictated the cartoon that appeared in the next day’s paper. Financial pressures have been extraordinary against cartoonists but few have acquiesced to such rollbacks and Rob Rogers was certainly not going to be one of them.

So instead they decided to kill one of his cartoons. And another one. And another one. By the time they showed him the door, well over a dozen cartoons in a row had been drawn but failed to appear in print.

I’m not sure I really understand this tactic. I didn’t go to business school. I would imagine that humiliating and harassing someone into leaving works best when they can easily find another job in their chosen profession. That’s not really true in journalism.

If there’s a class about how to fire people at any decent business school, they should probably use the Rob Rogers firing as an example of exactly what not to do. Look, it’s their paper. They can publish or not publish whoever they want. Maybe it’s crazy for a city like Pittsburgh to have a pro-Trump newspaper but that’s their prerogative if they want to go under. They had the right to fire him.

But why do it that way? Why not simply call him into the office, explain the fact that the editorial orientation of the newspaper had changed, and offer him a generous severance package (I would think two or three years salary would be sufficient) along with full retirement? And send him out with a little bit of glory and dignity, allowing him to say his goodbyes in cartoon form and perhaps showcasing a few pages of his best cartoons over the years? 25 years of loyal service earned him that. More than that, Rob is a fixture in the community. He is always front and present, organizing and hosting cartooning-related panels and shows at art galleries. Disappearing him like a Soviet apparatchik airbrushed out of photos from the top of Lenin’s tomb is a little insane.

Alternatively, why not simply make clear that he could stay on board as a liberal cartoonist even though the editorials would be conservative? My former employer the Los Angeles Times did that with cartoonist Mike Ramirez in the 1990s, but in reverse. The paper had a liberal editorial orientation but Mike was very conservative. Many newspapers with a specific editorial orientation run columns by columnists whose politics disagree with them.

Rob deserved better than to be given the bum’s rush. I suspect that much of the national media will focus on the Trump aspect of the story but I think the real issue is the cruel treatment given to a loyal employee who never did anything wrong and wasn’t even accused of doing anything wrong. I don’t know how that publisher or that editor can live with themselves.

They’re both disgusting.

22 thoughts on “Rob Rogers Matters

  1. Ted,

    Two points.

    First. I see that, in a way similar to your own mishandling by the LATimes (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the LAPD), Chris Hardwick’s name has been scrubbed completely from the Nerdist website following an accusatory posting by his ex-girlfriend (in which she, apparently, does not name him — I haven’t read the article yet). I don’t know if that was clearly communicated: Hardwick has been ACCUSED of something without even being named, and found guilty by no official body whatsoever, and the site he founded (and which he sold some years ago) has removed his name as the founder.

    Second–and related to the first point of how once someone gets stalined, everyone develops amnesia about how the person in question ever existed at all in the first place–Ted, I still do not understand the pretty much COMPLETE media blackout on the issue of your firing. With the exception of a couple of noted-in-passing kind of items, no one seems to even be aware it happened. The New York Times hasn’t mentioned it. If FAIR has done anything on it, I’ve missed it. All these places that love to manufacture pretend outrage about things have also ignored it. Ted, I have to ask, WHY is no one discussing this? I’ve looked at the evidence, and it simply does not rise to the minimal level necessary to justify firing. WHY is no one examining this and either taking your side or blowing you out of the water?

  2. After studying this situation carefully, it seems clear to me that Rob should have followed in the footsteps of American Teacher.

    Principles do not pay the bills. I betray my convictions every day and then sleep soundly at night.

      • I need to survive. God understands. And the Blessed Mother approves.

        As Rebecca Shuman wrote in a recent essay, “Since most students cannot read and write anyway, we should stop trying to teach them.” I agree wholeheartedly and would add that students are nasty, too.

  3. Because no one knows this, among the genpop if an employer wants to remove an employee and has zero official reason, write ups or warnings, they simply cut the hours to the bare minimum.
    Some states that is roughly ten hours a week. Others may be less.
    Employee either works two jobs, with the likelihood one will conflict with the other, or simply quits after finding a second job.
    Can’t quit and receive public assistance, and your wages limit the amount of assistance you receive. Making the amount of money earned from bare hours cut into any type of aid
    Common practice.
    This is probably taught in business school. Or passed down through management.
    Like cheating in Boxing.
    Not supposed to be done but…

  4. Life’s a bitch, then your kids put you in an nursing home.
    1 in 4 seniors are successful at suicide.
    Keep that in mind as the world slowly collapses around you.

  5. Sure, employers can give any reason they want to fire someone. But when it’s so-called journalism, it’s a more public thing, at least for the people still reading the newspaper where they saw this guy’s cartoons. Ted is dismayed because another editorial cartoonist is laid off, and treated badly by the newspaper…of which he has personal experience.

    • «Sure, employers can give any reason they want to fire someone.» Ay, there’s the rub…

      I suppose that’s what Thomas Loren Friedman would call a «level playing field»….

      Henri

      • Frogitty woggity

        Since you play at being European you know people just can’t be fired with documented reasons.
        Same is true in the US. So many write ups and the firing is justified.
        From my read he chose not to follow company policy so nothing was made up.
        The company cuts his check, they employ him for a specific job with a specific slant.
        It was his choice to not accept those terms.
        Meantime someone else will, and for cheaper.

    • No on

      And?
      I recall a number of cartoonists either getting banned or not having their toons run for editorial reasons.
      Cartoonists are not Journalists.
      Journalists these days are not journalists, if they ever were.
      Good to know that Rall, like millions of americans, understands unjustified firing from his own perspective and a friends.
      Welcome to the real world.
      Now explain to me just why this particular job loss is exceptional?
      How is it different for a single mother of three getting fired from McDonalds for being late again because one of the kids is sick and she couldn’t find a sitter?
      From a sixty year old forced into mandatory retirement and made to train his younger lower salaried Indian replacement?
      Was the guy white? Older white male who lived through the years of privilege.
      Older white male who refused to follow company policy.
      It simply boils down to he chose not to work as his bosses wanted him to so they fired a recalcitrant employee.
      And, from a dying occupation.
      Who should I cry for the Mother of three or the guy who chose not to do his job?

  6. here is something to cry about

    https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/06/many-unsheltered-homeless-people-california.html

    One-quarter of homeless people in the U.S. live in California, despite Californians making up only 12 percent of the population.

    Not only is homelessness more common on the West Coast but it is also more visible, because a higher proportion of homeless people are unsheltered. In the U.S., 24 percent of homeless people sleep outside, in vehicles or somewhere else not meant for human habitation. But that varies greatly from place to place: In California, 68 percent of homeless people areunsheltered, compared to just 5 percent in New York.

    Visitors to the West Coast may be shocked to find the tents that line cities from San Diego to Seattle. Like a modern-day “Grapes of Wrath,” the tents are a stark reminder of the suffering of the thousands living outside, homeless.

    What’s to blame for such high numbers of unsheltered homeless on the West Coast? The reason isn’t drug use, mental health problems or weather. Rather, it is due to the extreme shortage of affordable housing.

    Life Unsheltered

    As a physician and researcher who provides medical care for people experiencing homelessness, I have seen firsthand how devastating homelessness is to health.

    Being unsheltered is terrifying, humiliating and isolating. People living without shelterlack access to toileting facilities, sinks and showers. They have no way to store or prepare food and no protection from the elements. Hunger is common.

    Sleeping in makeshift beds or on the ground, they get little sleep. They must contend with having their possessions stolen. They face frequent forced moves, which disrupt relationships and make it difficult for family, friends or service providers to find them.

    People who are unsheltered are at high risk of physical and sexual abuse. If they struggle with substance use disorders, their use of drugs and alcohol occurs in public, leaving them open to arrest. There are no places to refrigerate or store medicines, no place to receive mailed appointment reminders or a visit from a visiting nurse, no place to dress a wound or plug in medical equipment like oxygen. Without access to hygiene facilities, they are at high risk for communicable diseases like hepatitis A.

    Unaffordable Housing

    Some assume that homelessness is so common on the West Coast because people move here when they become homeless, but data do not support this. Most people experience homelessnessclose to where they lost their housing. My team’s researchin Oakland found that 81 percent of older adults who are homeless became homeless in the Bay Area. Only 10 percent had lost their housing outside of California.

    Instead, the high rate of homelessness can be attributed to the lack of affordable housing in these regions. The West Coast suffers from rising costs of rental housing, stagnant incomes for low-wage workers and a decline in federal support for affordable housing. For example, California has gained 900,000 renter households since 2005, but lost US$1.7 billion in state and federal fundingfor affordable housing.

    Extremely low-income households – defined as those with income less than 30 percent of the area median income – are at the highest risk of homelessness. Nationally, there are only 35 units available for every 100 extremely low-income households.

    In the West, these shortages are more severe: Nevada has 15 units available for every 100 extremely low-income households; California has 21.

    In 2017, for the first time in 13 years, Los Angeles opened its wait list for housing choice vouchers. These vouchers allow households to pay 30 percent of their income in rent, with the rest paid by the government. There were 600,000 applicants for just 20,000 spots on the list, highlighting the enormous unmet need.

    Who Pays for Homeless Services

    Why are people on the West Coast so much more likely to be unsheltered than homeless people in other parts of the country? It reflects differing government priorities.

    New York City, where there is a legal right to shelter, spends approximately $17,000 per homeless person per year on homeless services. Massachusetts spends approximately $14,000 per year. Los Angeles, by contrast, spends approximately $5,000.

    With enormous numbers of people living outside, West Coast cities are scrambling for solutions. Some cities, like Seattle, have created sanctioned homeless encampments, bringing hygiene facilities and other services. However, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless cautions that this approachis costly and doesn’t provide a solution to homelessness.

    Other cities are following San Francisco’s example and creating navigation centers, homeless shelters with added services. Unlike typical shelters, these centers allow people to come in groups, bring pets and belongings and stay all day.

    Many areas have passed tax increases to fund new housing and services. These efforts show modest success but continue to struggle against the unfavorable housing conditions that lead people to become homeless in the first place.

    So where can we go from here? There are solutions to homelessness, but, in my view, these will not succeed without solving the affordable housing crisis that is the underlying cause of homelessness.

    For people who are chronically homeless and have disabling conditions, permanent supportive housing is highly effective. This type of subsidized housing offers supportive services, without the requirement that people be sober or engaged in medical care. Studies showthat expanding permanent supportive housing has reduced the number of people experiencing homelessness in many parts of the country.

    The success of permanent supportive housing has been overshadowed by increases in people becoming newly homeless due to the lack of affordable housing.In my view, preventing and ending homelessness will require a commitment to creating housing that is affordable to all.

  7. “’m not sure I really understand this tactic. I didn’t go to business school. I would imagine that humiliating and harassing someone into leaving works best when they can easily find another job in their chosen profession. That’s not really true in journalism.”

    Are you kidding?
    People simply get fucking fired. Doesn’t matter if they have families or bills any lame excuse will do.
    Why are we expected to feel sorry for a single person losing a job when thousands lose theirs every day?
    You might want to look into the massive amount of chain store closings.
    Most in places where the ex-employees can never find another job.
    There are homeless people living shitty lives because they lost their jobs.
    Get back to me when your buddy is living in a box and eating from garbage cans.

  8. Re: Who, did, or did not go to business school to learn how to fire decent people.

    One needs no school at all to act in the manner, as described, against Mr Rogers.

    One needs only to be a compassionless, vicious, aggressively avaricious psychopath.
    The economic/governmental system breeds, rewards, salutes and worships these creatures.

    Any question as to “why” we find ourselves in the current situation is best directed, first, to that fact.

    • “One needs only to be a compassionless, vicious, aggressively avaricious psychopath.”

      You are fucking stupid.
      Mostly it is jaw-droppingly mundane decisions to fire people.
      There is no malice.
      Simply numbers.
      Boring numbers.
      Raise your hand if you live in the real world and have been fired or “laid off” for no reason?
      I remember the first time I ever saw a company close a store. It was a mall restaurant and they didn’t even tell the employees not to come in the next day.
      You had the ten or so morning people standing around outside wondering what the fuck was going on.
      No manager came along to tell them the restaurant was out of business.
      I’m not even certain they received final paychecks.
      In the end, it was simply a business decision, fire x amount of people so y amount of other stores may stay open.
      Spend part of your day at
      http://www.dailyjobcuts.com/
      have your fucking eyes opened.

      • Hey Wiz, long time no gratuitous insult!
        Thanks for keeping it to fewer than 10,000 words with no profundities ascribed, however opaquely, to denizens of American popular “culture.”

        My comments apply equally validly to the macrocosm to which you refer as they do to the individual to which Rall and I have referred.

        “It’s only a business decision” will be the inaugural entry on my list of “Capitalist Psychopaths’ Tired, Hackneyed Code Phrases That Still ALWAYS Dupe the Proudly, Verbosely and Aggressively Ignorant.”

      • falco
        You are mundane, mediocre, and choose to remain ignorant.
        That is simple enough for your twitterfied narrow mind.

    • Hey, Wiz:

      Is this “draw-droppingly mundane” enough for you?

      “Our obligation to our share holders (mostly us) requires that we take extraordinary measures to maximize profits.”

      Could that “mundanity” have been the force behind the flood of foreclosures that made a few million more US homeless people … about whom who claim to care so much?

  9. I don’t know how that publisher or that editor can live with themselves.

    I doubt, Ted, that they will have the slightest difficulty ; rather they will be congratulating themselves on getting rid of Mr Rogers….

    Henri

    • They won’t give a shit either way.
      A week from now he will be barely remembered.
      A year people will say ” who?” when his name is mentioned.

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