by Chris Potter
Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers has been attending presidential political conventions for years. But this time, he's trying something different: He's launched a fundraising page at indiegogo to pay for the trip, so he can turn his experiences into a documentary. In partnership with the Toonseum, Rogers hopes to create a "mini-documentary" about his work as a political cartoonist -- and the role cartooning plays in the national political debate. Rogers launched the page last week, and is already more than halfway to his $3,500 goal.
Based on the response you get on the Post-Gazette's letters to the editor page, I get the sense there are lots of people who'd be willing to pay for you to leave town. Is that who is contributing so far?
[Laughs] Based on the number of donations so far, that's my only conclusion. Actually, it's probably a cross-section of people: some fans of the Toonseum, some fans of mine -- people who might have wanted to come to a book-signing but could never make it -- and then people who are just curious about what this documentary will look like.
How did you decide to go the online-fundraising route?
We had a couple thoughts about funding from outside sources -- some grant funding. But when those seemed not to be working out, Joe [Wos, head of the Toonseum] was like, "You know what? Let's try this."
The Post-Gazette is giving me the time off and the newspaper credentials, and they'll help a bit with the video. We're going to have two guys covering the convention with video anyway, and they may shoot some B-roll of me at a protest, sketching. Otherwise, it'll mostly be me and a flip-cam and an iPhone. Then when I get back, it'll be me discussing this, and pulling in the cartoons and clips. We're calling it a mini-documentary; it's only going to be about 20 minutes or a half hour.
In your online pitch, you say, "I hope this mini-documentary ... will help show how cartooning and newspaper journalism are still an important part of our collective dialogue." How are you going to get that message across?
I was thinking of this idea that newspapers, and cartoonists by extension, are able to spend a little more time looking at things and exploring them. It's the death of in-depth reporting -- it's been replaced with instant news. And one of the things I hope comes across is that, even though we're trying to adapt to the new media, the old media is still important.
Speaking of those challenges, your indiegogo page mentions the hardships newspapers are facing. Is the fact that you're raising money on your own a reflection of those hardships? Did your managers tell you, "Sorry, we can't afford to send you?"
They were willing to send me, but like everyone, we've been having budget constraints. And they've sent me to so many things over the years, that when they asked me if there was some way to save some money, I was happy to try and find one.
I was also interested in doing something new. I've been doing these for so many years, and we all know that politics is cyclical. I'll be having to come up with new gags about a lot of the same things -- the crazy hats, the Republicans trying to be more diverse on stage than they really are. So I was already thinking of doing something new.
Has your campaign led to any discussion of the Post-Gazette launching its own Kickstarter account?
No, but maybe I will bring that up with them.
When you launched this account, were you worried no one would contribute?
It was terrifying. But when I got two donations within five minutes of posting it on Facebook ... they were small, but it was like "thank goodness." And I wonder if people might think, "Wait a minute, why are WE paying for you to go?" But it's actually the Toonseum who is paying to send me; they've already paid for my plane ticket. So this is a way for them to recoup their expense -- and to generate some interest in the Toonseum, because a lot of people still don't know about it.
I'm still afraid that I might not make the total amount. I feel like I'm in one of my own cartoons – a guy holding a sign saying "will draw for food."