Friday, November 21, 2014

I Bet You Never Heard Of Them

There is a journalism institute that their mission is “…dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders. It promotes excellence and integrity in the practice of craft and in the practical leadership of successful businesses.” Yesterday when I was searching for material for my TDoR speech I came across an article on their blog about resources for the TDoR where they talked about the ways different media covered the murder of Jennifer Laude.
When Jennifer Laude was murdered in October, a U.S. Marine was charged in her death. Many media outlets fumbled as they covered the story, seeming confused about how to refer to the young Filipina, who was transgender. Bloomberg BusinessWeek identified her as “a 26-year-old man who identifies as a woman.”  CNN, The Associated Press and Fox News, among others, published her birth name. Many news outlets paid special attention to the fact that Laude was transgender, and chose to call her death a “transgender death” or “transgender murder.”
The New York Times’ Floyd Whaley treated Laude that way in this story, noting that she was transgender but letting her status as a transgender woman be the final note in a story, not the opening line. While Jim Gomez’s story for the Associated Press did include Laude’s birth name, it does treat her and her family with the respect and care you would expect from a story about a victim of a brutal murder. Gomez uses the correct name, respectful photos, appropriate pronouns and a sensitivity for the families.
They then had a link to, “Nine Ways to Do Justice to Transgender People’s Stories” which provided some excellent advice. Here are some of the nine ways to write a story about a trans-person.
1. Stop writing the same story.“There was a time in the 1970s and 80s when every story about a gay person was the coming out narrative,” Nick Adams, associate director of communications for GLAAD, said in a phone interview. But, he added, “with trans stories we’re still in that period.”
2. Pursue the ordinary.When journalists focus too much on the “heavy” issues and get stuck on medical transitions, they miss the opportunity to show that most transgender people live full lives that don’t revolve around these issues…
3. Stop asking for before and after photos.Journalists often ask transgender people for before and after photos, and sometimes refuse to write about them without such material. Before making such a request, journalists should ask themselves whether they want the photos to tell a full story or just to entice readers.
And here is a real biggie,
4. When you’re told someone’s name, use it.Even in stories where the appropriate pronouns and names are used, Truitt said, journalists will sometimes say things such as “she goes by this name” or “she wants to be called” or “she calls herself.” Such distancing by the journalist casts doubt on the transgender person’s identity.
They go on to say stop asking about medical procedures and stop using outdated or dehumanizing language. And number nine says it all,
9. Remember that transgender women are women, transgender men are men, and everyone is human.“It’s not actually all that complicated,” Truitt said, offering a simple question for journalists reporting on transgender people to ask themselves: “I’m speaking to someone who is a person — is this okay to say to a person?”
As I said they offer excellent advice on the major points that that are sticking points for us.

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