The New York Times has decried its contributors’ participation in a campaign criticizing the paper’s coverage of transgender issues.
A coalition of organizations, activists, and celebrities, led by GLAAD, delivered a letter to the Times Wednesday saying its coverage amplified anti-trans voices and demanding that the paper improve its reporting, meet with the trans community, and hire more trans reporters and editors. More than 100 Times contributors signed on to a similar but separate letter delivered the same day.
Joe Kahn, executive editor of the Times, wrote to the staff Thursday, “It is not unusual for outside groups to critique our coverage or to rally supporters to seek to influence our journalism. In this case, however, members of our staff and contributors to The Times joined the effort. Their protest letter included direct attacks on several of our colleagues, singling them out by name. Participation in such a campaign is against the letter and spirit of our ethics policy. That policy prohibits our journalists from aligning themselves with advocacy groups and joining protest actions on matters of public policy. We also have a clear policy prohibiting Times journalists from attacking one another’s journalism publicly or signaling their support for such attacks.”
Kahn’s memo was shared on Twitter (although not by Kahn or the Times) and obtained by some other publications. Several Twitter users noted that he appeared to be conflating the contributors’ letter and GLAAD’s.
“Our coverage of transgender issues, including the specific pieces singled out for attack, is important, deeply reported, and sensitively written,” Kahn continued. “We do not welcome, and will not tolerate, participation by Times journalists in protests organized by advocacy groups or attacks on colleagues on social media and other public forums.”
In the contributors’ letter, they wrote in part, “The newspaper’s editorial guidelines demand that reporters ‘preserve a professional detachment, free of any whiff of bias’ when cultivating their sources, remaining ‘sensitive that personal relationships with news sources can erode into favoritism, in fact or appearance.’ Yet the Times has in recent years treated gender diversity with an eerily familiar mix of pseudoscience and euphemistic, charged language, while publishing reporting on trans children that omits relevant information about its sources.”
The coalition’s letter noted, “For those of us who truly treasured the Times’ coverage for so many years, it is appalling to see how the news and opinion pages are now full of misguided, inaccurate, and disingenuous ‘both sides’ fearmongering and bad faith ‘just asking questions’ coverage. We won’t stand for the Times platforming lies, bias, fringe theories, and dangerous inaccuracies. We demand fair coverage, we demand that the Times platform trans voices as both sources and full-time writers and editors, and we demand a meeting between Times leadership and the transgender community.”
The Times issued a statement in response to GLAAD, which found it wanting. “We received the letter from GLAAD and welcome their feedback,” it said. "We understand how GLAAD sees our coverage. But at the same time, we recognize that GLAAD’s advocacy mission and The Times’s journalistic mission are different. As a news organization, we pursue independent reporting on transgender issues that include profiling groundbreakers in the movement, challenges and prejudice faced by the community, and how society is grappling with debates about care.
"The very news stories criticized by GLAAD in their letter reported deeply and empathetically on issues of care and well-being for trans teens and adults. Our journalism strives to explore, interrogate and reflect the experiences, ideas and debates in society — to help readers understand them. Our reporting did exactly that and we’re proud of it.”
GLAAD then commented on the Times statement, which Ellis said was not given directly to the organization, which instead had to see it in media reports.
“The New York Times response is as ill-informed as its coverage of transgender people," Ellis said in a press release. "It is shameful that the Times’ response blatantly ignores today’s letter from 180+ of their own contributors and does not address the 120+ organizations and leaders who signed the letter alongside GLAAD. The Times is not only standing behind coverage that hundreds of leaders in journalism, media, and LGBTQ advocacy are speaking out against, but boasting that they are proud of it. Does this response mean the Times has no interest in meeting with leaders in the trans community? Does the Times have no interest in hiring trans writers and editors? Does the Times believe it is okay to ignore the voices of hundreds of stakeholders, and thousands more joining in support online? The Times response does not answer these questions and instead tries to dismiss the very real concerns over fair and accurate journalism.”
Catch more about the letter below:
GLAAD Report on New York TImes Transgender Bias, Sarah Kate Ellis | Advocate Today
GLAAD and 100 other advocavy organizations and hundreds of Journalists call on the New York Times to stop publishing Anti-Transgender Opion Pieces and articles.