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May 24, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:50am

IPSO commissions research into standards of UK media reporting on transgender issues

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has commissioned research into the editorial standards applied to transgender reporting in the UK.

Charlotte Urwin, head of standards at the press regulator, said coverage of transgender issues made for some of the “most contentious and sensitive issues” dealt with by IPSO.

The regulator published non-binding guidance on reporting transgender matters in 2016 which sits alongside the Editors’ Code of Practice to inform editorial decisions.

Although IPSO’s internal monitoring shows coverage of transgender issues has changed in recent years, Urwin acknowledged this view is “heavily contested” by transgender individuals and their supporters, plus some journalists who report on the topic.

In a blog post about IPSO’s tackling of transgender issues, Urwin announced the regulator has commissioned Mediatique to carry out research “into editorial standards in the reporting of transgender matters”.

This research will quantify the amount of articles about transgender issues over the past ten years and see industry figures and groups representing the transgender community interviewed over the coverage.

It is hoped this research will examine what changes in editorial standards have taken place and what has driven any positive changes.

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Urwin said: “By examining changes in the reporting in this area and the continuing challenges facing both transgender individuals and journalists writing about these issues, I hope to shed new light on this challenging area.”

Urwin added that this area is currently under-researched and that this will create a new evidence base for discussions around editorial standards.

The Times is currently fighting a tribunal claim from former Scotland night editor Katherine O’Donnell, a transwoman, that she was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against as a result of a newsroom culture that is both sexist and discriminates against transgender people.

O’Donnell claims the volume of content in the Times and Sunday Times that is “hostile” to trans people has “increased many-fold since October 2017”.

The paper denies O’Donnell’s claims, with Times editor John Witherow telling the tribunal last Friday that there is no trans bias in his newspaper.

The Times withdrew its nominees from the Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards last year partly because of backlash against its shortlisted columnist Janice Turner, who frequently writes about transgender issues.

Earlier this month a columnist resigned from TES over the education news magazine’s coverage of trans issues.

At Press Gazette’s British Journalism Awards in December Buzzfeed UK’s LGBT editor Patrick Strudwick said he worries “very deeply about the effect that our media has on transgender people”.

Picture: The Gender Spectrum Collection

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