Updated at the end of the post
Apparently, I'm not the only person upset with the Indianapolis media coverage of the Taysia Elzy and Michael Hunt double homicide. GLAAD has recently named WTHR-13 (NBC) reporter Steve Jefferson the "worst of national news" for December.
The org documents their efforts to reach out to Jefferson and provide "extensive resources" on how to better report on LGBT issues. Not only was Jefferson's piece patently offensive, but it clearly violated the Associated Press style guidelines. I also attempted to contact Jefferson and unlike every other reporter who covered the case, he wouldn't return any e-mails or phone calls. He did, however, respond to GLAAD. He turned defensive and sent bitter e-mails back to GLAAD staffers including this gem: "Our goal is to catch the killer- NOT promote your cause."
Actually, Steve, your job is to report the news. Your job is not to catch criminals, it's to be an impartial, unbiased source of news and information without resorting to sensationalizing and disrespecting victims of a violent crime. This is why you are the worst journalist in the nation; you deserve the honor.
In related news, I've been asked by the Indianapolis Star to be part of a training session next week on how area reporters can better cover LGBT issues. Kudos to the Star and local members of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for organizing the event.
See after the jump for GLAAD's action alert. Be sure to write Jefferson and send him a link to GLAAD's posting and this one. Maybe he'll respond to your e-mails.
WTHR Coverage of Transgender Murder in Indiana Misses the Mark
A December 28 crime report on WTHR.com detailing the murder of a transgender woman and her boyfriend in Broad Ripple, Indiana used the incorrect name, the wrong pronouns and described the transgender victim's life in a generally offensive manner.
Taysia Elzy a transgender woman, and her boyfriend Michael Hunt were found murdered in their home on December 26. The article, "Family of murder victim speaks out," uses a male name to describe Taysia and uses male pronouns and identifiers throughout the piece. The story also repeats a police statement with the problematic phrase, "alternative lifestyle," neglecting to put quotes around it.
GLAAD called and e-mailed crime reporter Steve Jefferson and offered extensive resources for correcting the faulty coverage. The story clearly violates Associated Press style guidelines which state, "Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly."
Instead of taking our advice the reporter rebuffed our educational efforts saying in an email, "I did not do this story based on lifestyle." Jefferson furthered, "Our goal is to catch the killer- NOT promote your cause." He also said he did not use female pronouns because he said the transgender victim "was NOT post-op."
WTHR has yet to change this story.
GLAAD urges you to contact WTHR Crime Reporter, Steve Jefferson and WTHR News Director, Carolyn Williams and voice your concerns. Tell them to make the necessary corrections to this story and cover the transgender community with accuracy and respect and in line with standard language usage.
UPDATE: I spoke with Carolyn Williams, the News Director for WTHR. The offensive article has been edited to conform with the AP Style Guide. Ms. Williams will also be speaking with her Station Manager about coordinating a diversity training session on LGBT issues with all area television stations.
Ms. Williams was very kind and understanding. E-mailing Ms. Williams with kudos for her prompt response and leadership would be more appropriate at this point!