Bill Simmons: We Need Reeducation Camps For Reporters Writing About Transgender People
I’m going to write this post assuming you have read the original story and are familiar with the ongoing discussion about it. It’s simply too…much to explain.
Today Grantland Editor In Chief Bill Simmons issued an extraordinary “note” on the story, the fallout and what he says he did wrong.
We made one massive mistake. I have thought about it for nearly three solid days, and I’ve run out of ways to kick myself about it. How did it never occur to any of us? How? How could we ALL blow it?
That mistake: Someone familiar with the transgender community should have read Caleb’s final draft. This never occurred to us. Nobody ever brought it up.
Allow me to offer a guess why Simmons, nor someone on his staff ,thought to run this story by “someone familiar with the transgender community”…reporters aren’t supposed to shape their coverage to reflect the desires of the people they are covering or their political goals.
Can you imagine an editor saying, “We should have consulted a conservative Republican before running a piece on the tea party”. Or “we should have consulted someone who served in the military to make sure we properly represented the views of veterans in this story about someone who was once in the Army?” Or “we should have consulted someone who has run a large multi-national corporation before running this piece by a communist about the evils of international capitalism to ensure the views of evil international capitalists were fully understood and represented in the piece”.
From now on when Grantland writes about professional athletes are we to assume that they have consulted with someone from the players union first? If not, why not?
Of course you can’t imagine such things because they are ridiculous and would never happen. But apparently there’s at least one group who is supposed to have a representative at the table when anyone of them is the focus of a story. Maybe there are others, I don’t know. Perhaps publications can have a section in their “About Us” section that lets the rest of us know which groups are approved for kid glove treatment and which groups don’t get a chance to affect how they are covered.
Simmons also says that in the future he will be using GLAAD’s stylebook on how to refer to transgender people. Again, what other activist groups get to incorporate their preferred style guide into news coverage? Why just GLAAD (assuming it is just GLAAD)? What makes them so special?
This isn’t about whether or not you like or disapprove of the transgendered. It’s a question of journalistic fairness. Some groups can’t be more equal than others simply because they are given some sort of protective status.
Journalists are supposed to be committed to the truth and to their audience. Giving some favored groups extra protections makes you wonder how fair a reporter is to any other group.