The Columbia Journalism Review allowed a liberal activist to set a new standard for transgender reporting by publishing her view that people who are critical of transgender athletes should be excluded from reporting on the subject. The activist and CJR, both posing as authorities on journalism ethics, declined to comment on the standard they are pushing.
CJR is a magazine published by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism that describes itself as a media watchdog providing an “essential” service to journalists and professionals that rely on solid reporting. “CJR’s mission is to be the intellectual leader in the rapidly changing world of journalism,” the website states. “It is the most respected voice on press criticism, and it shapes the ideas that make media leaders and journalists smarter about their work.”
The Daily Caller asked CJR about its decision to publish a piece by Media Matters for America editor-at-large Parker Molloy, in which she explicitly pushes for fewer perspectives and fewer voices in reporting on whether it’s fair for biological men who identify as women to compete in women’s sports. MMfA is a self-described liberal activist non-profit.
Molloy criticizes journalists for including quotes from people who disagree with the policy in their coverage of the controversy — a standard journalism practice — even in pieces that consist almost entirely of the perspective of the transgender athletes who want to compete, and which are obviously framed in their favor. People who don’t have “all the facts,” i.e. the right facts according to transgender activists, shouldn’t be quoted in stories, Molloy says. (RELATED: One Paragraph Illustrates Why It’s Fair To Ban Transgender Athletes From Women’s Sports)
Many transgender athletes have garnered glowing profiles of their successes and sympathetic reports on their struggle to convince critics that it’s fair for them to compete with women as biological men. They rarely, if ever, include the voices of the women and girls who lose out to these athletes in competition, and often give only a passing mention to their critics.
Molloy picked perhaps the most egregious examples of this biased trend in media reporting — a “Good Morning America” video profile on two biological boys who are dominating women’s high school track competitions in Connecticut — and actually criticized the outlet for seeking comment from a mother upset by their inclusion in the competitions.
The five-minute video consists almost exclusively of the unchallenged perspective of the biological boys who identify as girls, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood. The reporter doesn’t talk about the girls they are crushing in competition. Instead, she concludes the sympathetic segment by asking the two biological boys how they think the girls should respond (“It would just push me to run faster,” one of them says).
The ABC reporter gives no indication she tried to talk to the girls. Aside from a brief clip of some of them losing to Miller and Yearwood, the girls exist only as hypotheticals in the final question teed up for Miller and Yearwood. One of the girls, Selina Soule, later told her point of view in a YouTube video that got national press attention, but only from conservative outlets. (RELATED: Media Reports On Transgender Athletes All Seem To Be Missing One Thing)
Molloy takes issue with the ABC segment, though, because it includes a brief clip of one of the girl’s parents who does not think it’s fair for Yearwood and Miller to be competing with her daughter. The mom says it’s scientifically proven that biological boys have an advantage over girls in competition — an assertion that does hold up to scrutiny.
“Journalists need to exercise caution when considering who to quote,” Molloy says in the CJR piece. “Good Morning America’s profile of trans runners Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood featured an upset parent as an authority, even though it was clear that she didn’t have all the facts on the girls’ transition and participation.”
She may be referring to ABC’s note that the mother was not aware Miller and Yearwood had undergone treatment to suppress testosterone levels, a fact that does not actually change their biological advantages as boys who have gone through puberty. (RELATED: Liberals Abandon Science In Transgender Athlete Debate)
“Journalists should take into account how their words could be used to reinforce ignorance,” Molloy continues, adding: “And reporters should ask themselves why they’re quoting someone’s opinion about a fact and whether that helps or hinders overall public understanding. By shaping public perception, they also shape policy.”
Molloy declined a request for comment.
It is standard journalistic practice to make a good faith effort to reach out to people on all sides of a given story, and to include critical voices and opinions in order to give readers a balanced and informed understanding of the matter. CJR declined to explain why, as a media watchdog and intellectual leader, it decided to run a piece from a liberal activist advocating against journalistic norms in reporting, and whether this kind of one-sided journalism is something CJR wants to see more of.