Last week, several dozen contributors and staffers at the New York Times signed a letter, wringing their hands and stomping their feet that the Times’s coverage of transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people was “biased.” They reached this conclusion because, apparently, the reporters were posting both sides of the debate.
This week, a group of prominent — even famous — New York Times editors and writers pushed back. They attacked the newspaper’s union representatives for supporting the indefensible attack on journalism represented by the “crybullies’” demands in a letter to union president Susan DeCarava. Vanity Fair has the story and quotes the second letter:
But your letter appears to suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of our responsibilities as journalists. Regretfully, our own union leadership now seems determined to undermine the ethical and professional protections that we depend on to guard the independence and integrity of our journalism.
Factual, accurate journalism that is written, edited, and published in accordance with Times standards does not create a hostile workplace.
Every day, partisan actors seek to influence, attack, or discredit our work. We accept that. But what we don’t accept is what the Guild appears to be endorsing: A workplace in which any opinion or disagreement about Times coverage can be recast as a matter of “workplace conditions.”
The crybullies were complaining that the Times — in several front-page articles — was straying from the “approved” narrative on transgender issues:
For example, Emily Bazelon’s article “The Battle Over Gender Therapy” uncritically used the term “patient zero” to refer to a trans child seeking gender-affirming care, a phrase that vilifies transness as a disease to be feared. Bazelon quoted multiple expert sources who have since expressed regret over their work’s misrepresentation. Another source, Grace Lidinksy-Smith, was identified as an individual person speaking about a personal choice to detransition, rather than the President of GCCAN, an activist organization that pushes junk science and partners with explicitly anti-trans hate groups.
What evidence is there that the phrase “patient zero” “vilifies” trans kids? That’s nuts.
The pushback letter asserts:
Debates over fairness and accuracy are perfectly reasonable. We understand and respect that the Guild has an absolute duty to offer representation to members when they are subject to discipline by management. But we do not think it is the role of our union to be engaged in – and taking sides in – public debates over internal editorial decisions.
The letter was signed by several dozen journalists — none of whom, I’ll bet, is under 35. Confusing journalism with advocacy is incredibly dangerous to our constitutional republic. This is especially true with a contentious issue like transgenderism, when activist journalists pretend there is only one side to a story and that any deviation from that narrative should condemn the offending reporter to the outer darkness.
It’s all so disheartening. Newspapers can’t die fast enough to save us.