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Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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Opinions generic

As members of Gen Z, many of us were disappointed when one of the imagineers of our childhoods, J.K. Rowling, made transphobic comments. 

As journalists, it was just as bad to hear that activists, public figures and members of the transgender community were unhappy with the coverage of one of the most credible news organizations in the world: the New York Times. In response, the NYT published a so-called defense of Rowling one day later, painting her as the victim of cancel culture, instead of highlighting how her comments hurt the 1.6% of U.S. adults who identify as transgender or nonbinary.  

This past week, tens of thousands of NYT readers and hundreds of NYT contributors including trans actress Angelica Ross and trans whistleblower Chelsea Manning decided to say something. 

In an open letter addressed to one of the paper’s editors, Philip B. Corbett, individuals criticized recent coverage related to trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming people. 

Primarily, complaints in the letter ask that this level of ignorance stops immediately, with the hiring of new trans writers and editors being called upon. Furthering this issue, NYT decided not to renew the contract of Jennifer Finney Boylan, an opinions writer who is trans.

The letter references “over 15,000 words of front⁠-⁠page Times coverage debating the propriety of medical care for trans children” in the past eight months.

Shortly after news broke that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration requested an audit of gender-affirming care provided by facilities on Florida university campuses, activists and readers took issue with NYT’s front-page story. 

The article, titled “When Students Change Gender Identity, and Parents Don’t Know,” addressed the question of whether parents should be informed when their children identify differently at school versus at home. The reporter described school districts as “wrenching new tensions over how to accommodate transgender children,” leaving parents “unsettled” or feeling “villainized.”

Parents’ rights — something DeSantis has championed in his tenure as governor — are framed in the story as more important than the wishes of a trans child. 

That same day, Jan. 23, we published a front-page story centering transgender voices, platforming the community that could be most affected by the gender-affirming care audit. 

Shortly after the first letter, a second letter coordinated by more than 100 LGBTQ and civil rights organizations  — including Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation — was released in support of contributors' complaints, asserting NYT’s coverage is irresponsible and dangerous toward the trans community. Two prominent trans celebrities, “Jeopardy!” champion Amy Schneider and TikTok creator Dylan Mulvaney, signed on as well. 

In response to this letter, a NYT spokesperson pointed to what the news organization sees as a difference between advocacy and independent journalism.

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“We understand how GLAAD and the co-signers of the letter see our coverage,” he wrote in an email. “But at the same time, we recognize that GLAAD’s advocacy mission and The Times’s journalistic mission are different.”

But we at The Alligator fail to see the difference in this scenario. 

If anything, this response represents what we feel is a shift in values from older generations of journalists to now. Rather than spending time debating the existence of groups of people or the validity of their identities, we’d much rather see coverage that accepts them as truth.

Within the past few months, we have been committed to bringing attention to issues such as the gender-affirming care audit demanded by DeSantis’ office, a Florida ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth and a case of discrimination against LGBTQ Micanopy residents.

With every story, we aren’t making attempts at advocacy. Rather, we’re exposing the real impact of bigotry on our community. As active members of the Gainesville community, we have taken on the role to understand the outspoken issues within it. 

Consistently, our peers and fellow residents have called upon us to stand up, despite the outcries surrounding these decisions. Here, we choose to be intentional when framing issues that concern the identities of minority groups. 

We have made it a priority to fairly cover issues affecting LGBTQ members of our community and remain committed to this mission. 

As journalists about to enter the professional workforce, we’re hopeful that the brave decision to stand up to powerful, well-established newsroom editors will effect change within the NYT.

Advocacy isn’t our prerogative. Fair, honest coverage is.

The Editorial Board consists of Editor-in-Chief Alan Halaly, Engagement Managing Editor Veronica Nocera, Digital Managing Editor Aurora Martínez and Opinions Editor Selin Ciltas. 

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