Earlier this year, the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) announced their collaboration with the Trans Journalists Association (TJA), including their support of TJA's Style Guide. The guidance put forth by TJA, however, is blatantly at odds with the ethical standards put forth by the SPJ. Well-meaning journalists and publications have traded accuracy and ethics to appease a small minority of extremists. This is most obvious in the modern reporting practices around sex and gender, sexual orientation, and women’s rights.
The Ethical Journalism Network outlines five major principles for ethical journalism:
1. Truth and Accuracy
3. Fairness and Impartiality
The Society for Professional Journalists further elaborates in their code of ethics that journalists should:
“– Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.”
“– Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.“
“– Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. Clearly label illustrations and re-enactments.”
These ethics are at risk in journalism, even by the same societies and publications that promote these guidelines.
In direct contrast to these ethical standards, though, the TJA style guide specifically asks journalists not to use the legal names or reference the sex of subjects/sources in certain conditions (in contradiction to the ethical obligation to provide truth, accuracy, and context); demands that journalists “avoiding giving a platform to” certain groups who oppose their ideology such as “so-called gender critical feminists” and “transmedicalists/truscum” (in contradiction to the ethical obligation for fairness, impartiality, and supporting the open and civil exchange of views); and limits the ability of journalists to report on certain experiences, such as those of detransitioners (in contradiction to the ethical obligation to remain independent).
By caving to the unethical demands of organizations like the Trans Journalists Association, publications are also (perhaps unwittingly) engaging in the process of erasing the global crisis of misogyny. Inaccurate information misrepresenting the sex of individuals in reporting is hiding the reality of male violence, distorting public perception with misinformation, and confusing the conversation on sex, gender, and sexual orientation.
It's time for a reckoning in media, beginning at the top. We ask that the Society for Professional Journalists demonstrate their commitment to their own ethical standards by adopting the WoLF Media Style Guide for reporting on sex and gender, which provides a more accurate and ethical way to report on issues that impact women and girls. The guidelines reflect a scientific understanding of concepts like sex and gender, are informed by a feminist perspective, and adhere to the strictest principles of journalism ethics including “truth and accuracy,” “fairness and impartiality,” and “humanity.”