More than 1,000 New York Times contributors have signed an open letter demanding how the paper covers transgender people and issues — but the top editor has responded that their protests will not be tolerated.
The letter was addressed to Philip B. Corbett, associate managing editor of The New York Times Standard.
In a memo sent to executive editor Joe Kahn, he said the Times “received a letter sent by GLAAD, an advocacy group, criticizing The Times’ coverage of transgender issues.”
“It is not uncommon for outside parties to criticize our coverage or rally supporters to influence our journalism. In this case, however, members of our staff and contributors to The Times joined the effort. Their protest letter included direct attacks on several of our colleagues, singling them out by name,” Kahn wrote in the memo obtained by The Hill. “Participating in such campaigns is against the letter and spirit of our ethics policy. This policy prohibits our journalists from aligning themselves with advocacy groups and engaging in protest actions over public policy. We have a clear policy against Times journalists publicly attacking each other’s journalism or indicating their support for such attacks.”
“Our coverage of transgender issues, including specific segments under attack, is important, deeply reported and sensitively written,” he continued. “We do not welcome and will not tolerate the participation of Times journalists in protests organized by advocacy groups over colleagues on social media and other public forums.”
The letter appeared online Thursday with 200 current and former New York Times contributors, but after it was published, the number swelled to more than 1,000.
“We are writing to you as a collective of New York Times contributors with serious concerns about editorial bias in the newspaper’s reporting about transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer people,” the letter begins. “Lots of journalists at The Times cover trans issues fairly well. Their work has been embraced, however, by what one reporter counted as 15,000 words of front-page Times coverage of the debate over access to medical care for trans children published in the past eight months alone.”
Journalists at the Times argued that procedures that sterilized and mutilated children were not worthy of debate. The letter then blasted individual stories and reporters that they found problematic.
The group of reporters specifically points to Emily Bazelon’s article ‘The Battle Over Gender Therapy’ which uses the term “patient zero” to refer to a “trans child” in what they refer to as “gender–affirming care”.
“Some of us are trans, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming, and we resent the fact that our work, but not our person, is good enough for the paper of record,” the letter concluded. “Some of us are cis, and we’ve seen those we love struggle to find and be who they really are, often swimming upstream against the currents of bigotry and pseudoscience protesting the kind of coverage we see here. We all dare to say that our position is extraordinary, even ordinary, and certainly not worthy of the intense scrutiny of the Times. A tiny percentage of the population is trans, and an even smaller percentage of those people face the conflict the Times purports to magnify. There is no rap reporting by the thousands of parents who simply love and support their children, or the New York Times’ hard-working professionals who endure workplaces beset by bias — an era of tolerance that ends today.”
In response to the leaked memo, the letter was updated with a note at the top:
We are disappointed that the New York Times chose to use their public response to Wednesday’s coalition letter from GLAAD and other organizations as an opportunity to try to dismiss the well-documented allegations of editorial bias detailed in our letter. Times representatives avoided addressing the actual concerns in the letter, simply complaining that it “came [them] via GLAAD.” However, GLAAD confirmed to us that they did not provide a copy of our letter to the New York Times. We await clarification from the Times.
Additionally, although we have coordinated time with GLAAD, our letters are very different documents. For example, we are not an advocacy organization. Our letter is addressed directly to the Standards Editor and makes a clear case for The Times’ own history and editorial standards.
Out of hand, the Times’ comments dismissed the concerns of, ultimately, more than 1,000 New York Times contributors — among them prominent writers, artists, photographers and elected office holders — and 23,000 media countersigners, readers and newspaper subscribers.
More than 20,000 people have signed letters of support, but the paper seems to be standing firm – even publishing an article supporting JK Rowling, who has been fiercely outspoken about biological reality.