LGBT issues: Ignorance not an excuse when media screw up

I don’t buy the excuses of some publications when they “apologize” for outing LGBT people against their wishes, or for misgendering them, or for any of the other ways they screw up in their reporting and monitoring of reader comments to articles about LGBT people.

As a longtime copy editor in a newsroom, I know the basic rules of when to write about a person’s race and colour and religion, and, it follows — obviously! — sexual orientation and trans gender identity. It should never be done gratuitously;  an editor must always ask if it is relevant. It’s Journalism 101. If a paper claims it didn’t know that it should not out a trans person because it doesn’t have any trans people on staff, that’s not an excuse. What it really means is that the editors didn’t do their job properly, either through sheer stupidity (i.e. they didn’t apply the race and colour and religion rule to sexual orientation and trans gender identity . . . duh) or laziness (asleep at the wheel). Period.

Copy editors are there to catch the mistakes of writers. They are the last line of defence for a publication. So, when a paper screws up, don’t blame the writer entirely. Blame the editors for letting it get by them.


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