It's All Journalism: Transgender coverage beyond Caitlyn Jenner

april 15, 2016  04:35 pm
It's All Journalism: Transgender coverage beyond Caitlyn Jenner
It's All Journalism is a weekly conversation about the changing state of the media and the future of journalism.
Writing about Caitlyn Jenner’s transition does not signify the end of a newsroom’s work when it comes to the transgender community.

Undoubtedly one of the biggest stories ever in that community, thanks to Caitlyn Jenner’s status as an elite athlete and affiliation with the Kardashian family and reality show, the unveiling of and introduction to Cait should be a watershed moment for mainstream media, suggests Sara Morrison, a former senior writer with and assistant editor for the Columbia Journalism Review. In a recent piece for Nieman Reports, Morrison takes a step back to look at how journalists and newsrooms around the country can use Caitlyn Jenner’s story as a starting block for covering the transgender community.

“Caitlyn Jenner coming out was a huge story and the highest profile transgender person” last year, the argument could be made, she said. Now that same-sex marriage is legal, thanks to the Supreme Court, it’s possible stories about transgender individuals will become a new chapter in the civil rights narrative. “Transgender people are more visible in the media than ever. I think there are more ways than ever for the transgender community to make its voice heard, even if the mainstream media doesn’t cover them.”

The alternative press world, as well as LGBTQ publications, have been at the forefront of telling these stories, of course, but the mainstream media can’t point to coverage of Caitlyn Jenner and say their work is done.

“If you’re only writing about Caitlyn Jenner, you’re basically missing everything else," Morrison said.

If a publication has written a story about a transgender person, odds are the story focused on a person’s transition from the gender they were born to the gender with which they identified, Morrison said. In talking with a senior editor at Nieman Reports, the focus of what happens next came up. “There’s decades after the transition to cover,” she said.

On this week's It's All Journalism podcast, producer Michael O'Connell talks to freelance writer Sara Morrison about how journalists can cover transgender issues in the aftermath of the Caitlyn Jenner story. They discuss an article Morrison wrote for Nieman Reports that examines how several news outlets took extra steps in order to find new stories to tell about the transgender community beyond transitioning.