The Front Page: Transgender Awareness Week

Issue 56: The New York Times publishes another moral panic piece.

It’s Friday, November 18th.

It’s Transgender Awareness Week, and what better opportunity to inform people about the issues trans people face than to publish a moral panic piece about them? Over the weekend, the New York Times chose, once again, to do exactly that. 

Despite a profundity of trans people who are experts in their field and able to speak to these topics in nuanced and compelling ways, moral panic articles continue to ignore them or obfuscate their contributions. 

Every few months, a self-declared investigative bombshell will drop like clockwork from one of the major journalism outlets. This most recent one intended to sow fear about puberty blockers — which we aren’t linking to. But it’s a reflection that no matter how frequently critics have pointed to the misrepresenting of medical data or the citation of violently transphobic groups as credible alternative viewpoints, the articles continue. 

It’s another case of She Said, even if the She in question is a doctor seeking to enact countless hurdles to gender affirming care — care which has been proven to prevent negative health outcomes. Or, She is a member of a school board seeking to ban all depictions of non-cisgender people in classroom books. 

From the 13th of November until Transgender Day of Rememberance on the 20th, Transgender Awareness Week highlights the achievements of the national transgender community, as well as the current issues they face. 

It is a call to pay attention to this vibrant but vulnerable population ahead of the solemn acknowledgement of transgender people who have been killed on the 20th. Violence towards transgender people, both at a legislative and interpersonal level, continues to grow precipitously — and inflammatory articles certainly don’t help.

Despite the mediocre track record of a few major national newspapers, there are outlets and journalists producing incredible reporting on trans people and the ways they are politically and socially treated. 

The New Republic and the 19th have both served as bastions of trenchant and precise coverage, linking legislative and journalistic attacks against transgender people to political trends of fascist populism, misinformation, and the failures of liberal inclusion models to sufficiently protect trans people at a policy level. In particular, the 19th’s status as an independent newsroom has allowed it to remain unbeholden to advancing shareholder interests, producing well-researched investigative coverage that doesn’t resort to sloppy language or hyperbolic framing in order to draw audiences.

Melissa Gira Grant’s contributions to the New Republic have been a bulwark against the disinformation promoted by journalists at notable outlets.  She’s covered statehouse debates on anti-trans legislation while on the ground in Texas and put together a grim portrait of a single week in anti-trans activism, among other stories. 

Slate’s coverage digs past the headlines to examine the “culture war bones” peeking out just below the surface of everything from Yellowstone to the Washington Examiner. Christina Caterucci’s excellent piece on the midterm elections connected the abortion access movement to transgender rights under the embattled banner of bodily autonomy. 

Additionally, Slate is platforming Evan Urquhart from assignedmedia.org, a trans-run and trans-owned site which focuses solely on anti-trans propaganda to provide them with insight into national instances of reporting bias. 

Dedicated LGBTQ outlets have had complicated legacies with including trans people in their coverage, but Them has consistently published vital reporting since its founding. 

Wren Sanders’ series of paired interviews at Them for Transgender Awareness Week covers everything from the power of transgender political organizing to the difficult question of who has access to transition in America. National news coverage by James Factora has also given the outlet a significant breadth and scope of reportage.

Even MSNBC’s recent reporting on the topic, bolstered by the journalist Katelyn Burns, is helping to shift narratives which seek to erase or relegate transgender people.

These are just a few outlets and a few journalists among many producing the sort of incisive work necessary to fight for transgender people — it will also take the continued efforts of grassroots activists, as well as broad campaigns for legislative protection, to actually ensconce transgender people in the social fabric. 

Maybe for Transgender Awareness Week in 2023, instead of attempting to name the current issues transgender people face, the New York Times should look in the mirror. 

— Sloane Holzer, freelance writer and graduate student


RESULTS

A Bit More Media

Q&A: Cerise Castle. To reporter Cerise Castle, the L.A. City Council scandal further exposes shortfalls of the area’s legacy media. Months before the racist audio was leaked, Castle and others with Knock LA were investigating the issues at the heart of the controversy. Read more about Castle’s reporting and the role of service journalism in Brandon Pho’s full Q&A.

Journalists of color should apply. The Solutions Journalism Network has launched its first Journalists of Color Fellowship, a program for U.S.-based journalists of color with 7-10 years of experience. Applications for the nine-month fellowship are due on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Fellows will receive a $6,500 stipend, training, and mentorship.

What to do if you’ve been laid off. In light of recent layoffs (Meta, Twitter, Protocol, and at Gannett newsrooms, to name a few), CNN product manager and writer Upasna Gautam is sharing advice for recently unemployed media workers on Twitter. Her Google Doc template for landing a new job is free to download.

Cover “the undercurrents of rebellion.” The International Women’s Media Foundation is accepting applications for this year’s Kim Wall Memorial Fund. Grant recipients will receive $5,000 to cover subculture and “the undercurrents of rebellion.” Women and nonbinary freelance journalists may apply until Dec. 15

Kari Lake and local TV news. For Mother Jones, Tim Murphy connects the dots between local TV news stations’ fixation on crime, audience loyalty, and Kari Lake’s Arizona gubernatorial campaign. “She is keeping the parts of TV news that are useful for her, and attempting to discredit the parts that aren’t.”

How election imagery affects voter turnout.New research from Christopher Mann and Kathleen Searles shows that airing footage of long lines to vote has negative effects. To avoid impeding democracy, the authors suggest forgoing generic line imagery if the news story isn’t about wait times at polling places.


WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Stay Up To Date

0 days until … The First 90 Days: Understanding Disability in the Workplace. This webinar, the third of four in URL Media’s series, is designed for new BIPOC hires and managers.

19 days until … Creating a Self-Care Plan that Works. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists hosts this members-only webinar. Cheryl Aguilar of the Hope Center for Wellness leads the session.

21 days until … applications close for the 2023​​ Total Newsroom Training. The two-day program from the Investigative Reporters and Editors is designed to help small and medium sized newsrooms.


A Few More Resources

Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | JournalismJobs.com | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | Freelance Journalist Rates | Source Jobs | Opportunities of the Week ($)   

How about a style guide? Trans Journalist Association | Diversity Style Guide | Tribal Nations Media Guide | NABJ Style Guide | Disability Language Style Guide | AAJA Guide to Covering Asian Pacific America | NAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook |  SPJ Race & Gender Hotline | AMEJA Media Resource Guide | The Press in Prison

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This issue is by Sloane Holzer and Holly Rosewood with editing by Janelle Salanga and Curtis Yee.

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