On Feb. 15, 2023, over 1,200 New York Times contributors co-signed an open letter addressed to Associate Managing Editor Philip B. Corbett with concerns of an anti-trans bias in the newspaper. The Times responded with a rejection of these concerns and has continued publishing pieces with an anti-trans bias.
We, the editorial board of Technician, stand with these Times contributors and emphasize the importance of accurate and sympathetic reporting on transgender people.
In the letter, contributors accuse the Times of publishing inflammatory news and opinion articles that can actively harm the transgender community. Stories of puberty-blocking medications, gender-affirming chest surgeries and children using different names at school use non-trans sources, opting to speak with cisgender observers of trans people instead. These stories are written without the trans perspective and thus fearmonger.
Additionally, the Times has published anti-trans opinion columns by writers like Pamela Paul, who have pushed back on trans acceptance in her writing.
The letter also cites the history of the Times in relation to trans people as well as others of the LGBTQ community, including its tardy coverage of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York. LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD also sent a letter expressing similar concerns to the Times the same day.
Executive Editor Joseph Kahn sent a memo to the Times’ staff the following day. He didn’t acknowledge any faults of the paper and instead praised the reporting criticized in said letter.
This memo was not a thoughtful consideration of the letter’s content, but instead a perfunctory rebuff. Kahn wrote the paper “will not tolerate, participation by Times journalists in protests organized by advocacy groups or attacks on colleagues on social media and other public forums.”
The next day, the Times published the perhaps most inflammatory piece yet: an opinion article by Paul entitled “In Defense of J.K. Rowling.” Rowling’s anti-trans stance is well-documented, and this piece being published directly after a lukewarm response to accusations of an anti-trans bias from the paper is upsetting.
Poor coverage of transgender stories is harmful, especially from a legacy news organization. According to CNN Business, the Times had 100 million registered users in mid-2021 — including those with and without paid subscriptions. By the end of 2025, the Times wants to have 10 million subscribers. With such a huge readership and a reputation for respectable reporting, the Times might affect how transgender people are seen across the country.
Research from Northumbria University in Newcastle found poor representation of transgender people in the media — specifically journalism — hurts that demographic. Participants felt like their lives were being misrepresented or sensationalized for the press. Without proper representation in journalism, reporters can cause active harm to marginalized groups.
Given the anti-transgender legislature the North Carolina Senate is pushing right now, the last thing we need is additional hateful rhetoric on top of the fight for equal representation. Dubbed the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” Senate Bill 49 is currently awaiting approval from the North Carolina House of Representatives — a likely outcome, due to its Republican majority.
In essence, this bill is North Carolina’s equivalent to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. It bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-4 and requires schools to tell parents if their kid asks to use a different name or pronouns at school, among other things. Needless to say, it only exacerbates the struggles transgender students face on a day-to-day basis in North Carolina.
The Times’ biased reporting isn’t comparable to passing anti-transgender legislation, but media — especially a newspaper as large as the Times — undeniably impacts the public’s perception, and subsequent support or disapproval of, such issues. In this way, we believe the Times is irresponsible in its lack of unbiased, empathetic reporting.
We understand our responsibility to accurately, humanely report on transgender stories at NC State. Going forward, we’ll continue to respect peoples’ chosen names and pronouns, seek out transgender sources when reporting on topics that directly affect them and, most importantly, focus on the transgender experience as a whole.
On an individual level, we urge you to start by unsubscribing from the New York Times and instead opting to receive news from alternate outlets. Human Rights Campaign is a great place to pursue humane reporting, and NC Health News reports on LGBTQ stories within North Carolina.
And if you’re unsatisfied with our content as it relates to reporting transgender experiences, please let us know. Shilpa Giri, our editor-in-chief, is available at email@example.com. Wade Bowman and Sam Overton, our managing editors, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our editorial board is committed to covering such stories with accuracy and acceptance.
This unsigned editorial is the opinion of Technician’s editorial board and is the responsibility of the editor-in-chief.
The LGBTQ Pride Center offers a plethora of resources for transgender students, faculty, staff and alumni to take advantage of. For more information regarding NC State’s Transgender Resource Roadmap, visit the website.
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