Regulator investigates trans reporting in UK newspapers

UK newspapersNewspaper reporting of transgender issues is to be investigated by the independent organisation that regulates standards in British papers.

The inquiry is by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). It’s funded by publishers, but is set-up to be independent of them.

It works to keep standards of journalism high, and it says: “some of the most contentious and sensitive issues we handle relate to the reporting of transgender matters”.

The Sun newspaper with the headline "the skirt on the drag queen goes swish swish swish"

The Sun, 13 Nov 2017

looking back 10 years

Research has been commissioned to look at the last ten years of coverage of the transgender community and transgender issues.

It will be carried out by a company called Mediatique. As well as studying articles it will talk to journalists and transgender groups.

a hostile press?

Many members of the transgender community believe that sections of the British press have become hostile to trans people in recent years. On social media the Times newspaper is often accused of having an anti-trans agenda.

The Times, 8 April 2019

Its editor, John Witherow, denied any trans bias in the paper when he gave evidence to an Employment Tribunal in Edinburgh this week.

The Times is been sued by trans woman journalist Katherine O’Donnell, who alleges unfair dismissal and discrimination.

reporting has changed

The Head of Standards at IPSO thinks that reporting about trans people has changed recently, and that it has a real impact on those it features.

“I believe – based on our internal monitoring – that coverage of transgender matters has changed in recent years”, says IPSO’s head of standards, Charlotte Urwin.

“I know that this is heavily contested by transgender individuals; those who support them; and by journalists reporting on this topic”.

The Sun, 27 March 2018

“The way the media covers transgender people and gender transition can have a significant impact on individuals and social attitudes, and also continues to generate wider debate. 

difficult questions to answer

The regulator says there are difficult questions to be answered about balancing free reporting with an awareness of the impact on potentially vulnerable people.

Last month senior staff from six national papers were questioned in Parliament about the tone of their coverage of trans issues. They appeared before the Home Affairs Committee which is inquiring into hate crime.

increasingly frequent attacks

The LGBT charity Stonewall spoke of what it called “increasingly frequent attacks” by the media, when it published its “Trans Matters” report in January last year.

The organisation’s Chief Executive, Ruth Hunt wrote in the foreword: “Headlines and stories that make ludicrous claims that people are being ‘turned trans’, and that sensationalise and misrepresent the reality of being trans are reminiscent of days gone by”.

Discussion in social media and newspapers has become aggressively polarised over the last year, during debate about reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

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