Sunday, May 01, 2005

Reporting or advocacy?

Paper tried to avoid potential harm to transgender teen
by Michael "my wife made me hyphenate my last name" Arrieta-Walden

Context:
Story as reported by The Fishwrapper

See my original post on the "I take my sixth grade child to sex parades dressed as a girl" story.

Why was there what seemed like a role reversal for journalists, whose primary mission is to convey information?
Why indeed? My answer is that this newspaper, and this "article" in particular was not meant to "convey information" but was instead an advocacy piece for sexual deviants.

Reporter Steve Woodward, who writes about cultures and subcultures for the newspaper, began trying to find a transgender teen more than a year ago.
Ever notice that all the pictures, especially front page pictures, that involved the gay marriage debate in Oregon were of older lesbian couples? Why no young men? This is a calculated decision on the part of the newspaper. Studies show that the general populace finds lesbians less offensive than the though of two men having sex. The paper wants to make this lifestyle as palpable as possible so that you will accept it sooner. If it took a year to find the "right" transgender, when clearly you could find any freak in leather, you know it was because the paper was looking for one that you could stomach.

When he found a subject last year, Woodward interviewed him for hours and wrote a draft of the story. But because of difficulties in the teen's life, Living editor Michael Rollins pushed to keep looking for another subject who wouldn't necessarily perpetuate stereotypes of transgender youths and with whom readers might more closely identify.
Exactly my point. The newspaper is behaving more like an advertising agency looking for a subject that will make their product (point of view) desirable.

They also were aware of the potential harm; Woodward had interviewed many transgender teens and those who know them, and had heard about beatings and harassment. "We always look out for kids," Rollins says. "We keep them out of harm's way."
Liars. If there provable cases of "beatings" then the paper would have reported them. People would have, and should have, been arrested, charged, and convicted of assault. Rollins is really "looking out for kids" by doing an advocacy piece for a family that took their sixth grade son to a transgender parade dressed a girl.

Woodward frankly regrets that readers did not see that she looks like many other beautiful, teenage girls.
Did you see "her" naked Woodward? The way that God made him?

For many stories, especially those involving social issues, journalists almost always could foresee possible harm. Yet a more positive result -- particularly community education and understanding -- could occur.
The desired result of this story? To educate you slack jawed, pickup driving, Republican voting, Bible thumping, beer drinking, morons about the wonderful aspects of letting elementary school boys dress like girls and walk in parades whose main theme is sexuality. If you lived in "The Pearl" you would already know this. But since you live in the sprawl, I mean suburbs, and attend church, the paper tried their best to find a transgender that maybe you could identify with.

The reaction to Sander's story actually has been overwhelmingly positive at the newspaper and for the family.
I have a hard time believing that the paper received not one letter to the editor that was not "positive." (I will admit that I didn't write one) However I do not believe that the paper would have printed one. I'm sure they received lot's of mail in support that they didn't print either. This is because somewhere deep down inside, very deep down, they still have a tiny bit of journalistic ethics left in them. They couldn't in good conscience print only positive letters but since they were personally attached to the subject of their story (not good ethics) they couldn't bring themselves to print a negative letter. So they printed none thinking that would be the "fair" thing to do.

Of course all of this is my opinion and assumptions (who can really get into the mind of a liberal) but I think that the writer, editors, and readers know that this was not just a "public interest" story but a piece designed to make you accept a point of view. Ask yourself why there has never been a "education and understanding" article on a teenage girl whose life was devastated by the fact that she had an abortion?

publiceditor@news.oregonian.com

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