The New York Times’ Trans Coverage Debacle Was Years in the Making

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The New York Times saw its biggest public revolt in years last month over its coverage of transgender people, leading to infighting and management repression. But the origins of the criticism can be traced back to 2021 when LGBTQ staffers begged management to reform the newspaper’s transgender coverage — those pleas were largely ignored. ears.

Confider was aware of a series of previous incidents in which time Staff members on the newspaper’s LGBTQ-focused employee resource group, TimesOut, have repeatedly tried to make it clear to management what it means to cover transgender people. However, the team often ran into problems with sponsor Carolyn Ryan, a managing editor at time and the most senior LGBTQ staff in the newsroom. Exchanges served as a prelude to last month’s explosion, which contained open letters from time New York Contributor, Celebrity and NewsGuild met with rebuke from management.

Christopher Reynolds, who served as administrative coordinator for time‘business aspect until 2022 and served as the group’s advocacy and policy expert, Ryan said he would regularly try to discourage the group from speaking out on the issue, often fearing how it would make the newspaper look. “She refuses to post anything in writing [to the internal TimesOut Slack channel] because she was so afraid it would be made public and ‘used against her’,” they said, which was confirmed by many of the people involved in the TimesOut effort.

ONE time “During Carolyn’s time as executive sponsor of our TimesOut staff group for LGBTQ+ members and allies, she met regularly,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement to Confider on Monday. group members, listen to feedback, and facilitate constructive listening sessions. She has trusted – and won the trust of – the members of TimesOut and has worked hard as both newsroom leader and executive sponsor to foster open dialogue. with group members. Any statement to the contrary is not true.” The spokesperson cited specific achievements during Ryan’s tenure, including updating time’ Stylish book with entries on LGBTQ and gender themes.

Those past efforts succeeded in September 2021 after time published a review of Helen Joyce’s book Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality written by Jesse Singal, a journalist whose own story has been criticized for suggesting that children seeking gender-appropriate care are harming themselves.

The review enhanced the idea that transgender people are born transgender, a position Singal seems to accept. Criticizing Joyce’s view that childhood gender dysphoria will subside, Singal notes that challenges to that idea “accidentally overstated — my view is closer to that of hers. Joyce much more.” Reynolds said the publication of the review infuriated TimesOut, prompting its management to try to arrange a meeting with Ryan.

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But Reynolds said Ryan declined, citing scheduling conflicts. Members then began drafting a letter to the article title that punished the article for publishing the review, saying it had contributed to a culture of transphobia. The plan was to circulate the letter internally between TimesOut members and time employees to drive change from within.

“We view the publication and the process that led to this review as a failure of the company’s DEI initiatives and our mission and values, following the publisher’s guidelines for behavioral at work,” reads the letter obtained by Confider, while urging more scrutiny of reviews and committing to hiring more transgender writers. It was sent to Ryan on September 9, two days after the Singal review was published.

“We tried the proper channels, but there was always the fear that if this went public, it would get worse,” the second former TimesOut member told Confider, saying members fear retribution. enemy.

The letter was never delivered time staff. Instead, Ryan and other members of the title, including then-Executive Editor Dean Baquet, agreed on September 17 to a meeting with TimesOut leadership to address the issue directly. address the concerns of the letter.

Both TimesOut and management engaged in pre-meeting preparation conversations with S. Leigh Thompson, a transgender consultant hired by time who specializes in issues related to diversity, inclusion and equity, and who has worked to mediate ongoing tensions between the two sides. During a meeting between members of Thompson and TimesOut, some expressed apprehension about whether management really cares about the nature and impact of transgender reporting, according to multiple sources. .

Thompson, who uses the pronoun he/they, told Confider that they were originally hired by time to conduct training sessions on gender diversity and gender inclusion at the end of August 2021, but the contract changed and those sessions never took place. Thompson will not comment on their personal conversations between time and TimesOut, citing their contracts, but they were brutally outspoken in their assessment of the paper’s current coverage of transgender issues.

They told Confider: “I don’t believe they are trying to adequately or responsibly reflect on the transgender community, transgender lives, or transgender issues. “I believe they are using transgender people as a political pawn to maintain a neutral reputation to avoid being seen as an overly liberal newspaper.”

“While we appreciate The Times’ right to criticize the journalism, we reject the claim that our reporting is biased,” said one. time the spokesman said in response. “The role of an independent news organization is to cover issues of public importance and to stay abreast of the events they lead to. The New York Times published hundreds of articles specifically on transgender discrimination and/or anti-transgender laws between January 2020 and March 2023.”

The TimesOut executive and celebrity meeting took place on October 27. “We kept thinking, for example, if one of us could speak eloquently enough or convey our fears and fears. If their pain is real enough, they will be—eventually they will stop and listen,” said Reynolds, who described the meeting as informal. “They thanked us for sharing, thanked us for our vulnerability, and thanked us for our honesty.” Another person who attended the meeting confirmed Reynolds’ description of the events.

However, the time Reynolds made no firm commitment to how it would reshape its coverage during the meeting, said Reynolds, who doesn’t believe TimesOut has had an impact on leadership.

Mike Abrams, director of journalism practice and principles at time, told Confider that action plans had been developed between time leadership, but the newspaper cannot control how people will respond to or share its news.

“I think we are in a sensitive moment in our country. There are clear threats in some states, especially for transgender people,” Abrams said. “It comes into an already uplifting atmosphere. Some of the reactions we are seeing are inevitable. There will be scathing opinions about the coverage of our coverage, especially when you see people sifting through those reports for their own purposes.”

Reynolds said they had left time last year after their positions were removed, although they declined to apply for any other internal roles, citing that they had had to do mind work during their time there. When they saw the newspaper continue to cover transgender issues throughout 2022, they felt their decision was confirmed.

“It proved that their goal in these conversations is comforting and reassuring people to make them feel heard, but without taking any actual action,” they said.

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