Tag Archives: news media

We’re Talking About All of the Wrong Things

cartoon of calvin from calvin and hobbes arguing with a playmateWhen I was a teenager, I was impressed that my father read the newspaper every morning, listened to NPR in his car, and watched the evening news every night. He told me that keeping up on current events wasn’t just an interest but his civic duty. He didn’t use those words, but look, it was a long time ago and I’m left with just the takeaway if not the precise quote. Now my dad was born in 1928, a child through the Great Depression, and one year shy of getting to enlist and fight in World War II (he lied about his age and went to work as a postal carrier instead, and they were willing to take him because they needed people). Duty and attachment to our neighbors has certainly shifted from then until today, and barely anyone reads a newspaper anymore. Our media outlets have grown, merged, super-merged, and drifted from the journalistic standards once popularized by people like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. For example, Fox News broadcasts verifiably true stories only twenty-two percent of the time. Rachel Maddow is better, but not much, at thirty-eight percent.

But in addition to the truthiness of mainstream news outlets, we have a problem with how subjects and topics are framed. Take the recent letter by forty-seven Republican Senators to Iran’s leadership, suggesting that their ongoing negotiations with the United States (and several other countries) won’t be worth the paper it’s eventually signed on. The debate frame is set up around whether these Senators are traitors or patriots, whether they should be recalled or heralded. Clearly they’re not traitors, as they didn’t call for the overthrow of the United States, didn’t send classified information to a foreign government for same effect, and didn’t attack the United States. (They didn’t even violate the Logan Act, but that’s another issue.) Read More…

An Open Letter to National Public Radio

NPR radio national public radioThis is the second day in a row I’ve taken to the keyboard to write about the unnecessary and hurtful treatment from the media toward Chelsea Manning, the Army private who leaked government secrets about our country’s involvement in Iraq and other activities around the world. Chelsea Manning is a declared transsexual woman, which we all know now because of her public announcement to the media and the rest of us. I was bothered by several news outlets yesterday which continued to use masculine pronouns and her former first name, but most of those organizations have a history of transphobic and insensitive reporting (I’m looking at you, Daily Beast).

What I did not expect was that National Public Radio would be one of those media institutions to so ignorantly take up its reporting on Pvt. Manning’s declaration. Your position was very clearly stated by your spokesperson:

“Until Bradley Manning’s desire to have his gender changed actually physically happens, we will be using male-related pronouns to identify him.” —Anna Bross, NPR Spokesperson Read More…

Chelsea Comes Out, Internet Loses Its Mind

The individual sentenced to 35 years in Federal prison for leaking diplomatic telegrams has officially come out as trans this week. Chelsea Manning, at the very, very least, has had a hell of a week. As if there weren’t enough invective around her role in Wikileaks, a military counselor’s office where she formerly sought therapy released a private photo of her in a wig and makeup. Or rather, they leaked it and said it didn’t come from them. Now with Manning’s statement that she intends to start hormone therapy and requests people to use feminine pronouns for her, she has taken what little agency she has and reframed such images of her. I fear the nuances of this reframing, however, will be lost on the general public, who in the margins of mass media’s online article comment fields have brought out every little bit of transphobia they can muster.

Seriously. Never read the comments. Never.

We’ve also seen a number of stumbles from mainstream news outlets, including from the Today Show (and CNN, and The Guardian, and The New York Times) which I linked to earlier in this post. It may very well be that journalists want to make sure their readership understands that Bradley Manning and Chelsea Manning are the same person, but the AP has come up with half-decent guidelines for reporting on transfolk, so why can’t they just refer to those? It is not actually the case that “Bradley” Manning made an announcement about “his” gender identity, especially if we read the announcement itself.

Her name is Chelsea. HER name. And whatever we think of Pvt. Manning’s role in the Wikileaks scandal-thingy, it would be nice if we could leave her gender identity alone. But now of course popular culture and mainstream America’s weaknesses to understand difference will have a hard time parsing apart Ms. Manning’s new prisoner status, health care needs, traitor label, and so on, not to mention what this means for the average tax payer (I call it the “I have to pay for what?” syndrome). Whenever anyone enters into a direct relationship to state support—be it welfare, disability, the prison system, etc.—culture presumes that everyone not in that support system has a right to judge that individual. So on top of people’s comments related to leaking diplomatic cables and other not-public documents, on top of all of the invective around Manning’s trial and sentencing, and on top of the sensationalized imagery of an American soldier in lipstick, we now have Chelsea Manning making an open statement about her feelings for the rest of her life. It may be too much for our media, who love maintaining the facade of a polarized environment, to be able to let her move on in peace. And I’ll note with some irony that in the midst of our collective shock that Russia hates gay people, we never stop to ask ourselves where our limits are in supporting LGB—and especially T—people.

In any case, for today at least, there is one more famous trans person than Chaz Bono. But I don’t think the country will be watching her on Dancing with the Stars anytime soon, and I don’t expect to hear any news show talking head cheering her on for her quote-unquote bravery. Except maybe Rachel Maddow. But she’s a lesbian, so she doesn’t count.

NOTE: Chelsea has asked for letters to be sent to her in prison. She received a 35-year sentence. Individuals can get her correspondence address and the addresses of other trans and queer prisoners here.

UPDATE:  Pvt. Manning’s current address is—

Attn: PFC Bradley Manning
239 Sheridan Ave, Bldg 417
JBM-HH, VA 22211

You should use “Bradley” on the envelope and Chelsea in the letter itself, to ensure proper delivery and respect of her identity.

Breaking the LGBT Debate Rut

I remember the 1990s well–ATMs were a novelty, all the cool kids had neon-colored pagers, and Friday nights were spent playing an X-Files drinking game.* 1992, the year I graduated college, was an election year, and there were all kinds of debates within and about the queer community, some of which made the mainstream news–also known as “the evening news.” Which was watched on television, not on the Internet.

1993 March on Washington for gay rightsThese debates included:

  • Whether bisexuals should be included in the umbrella of “queer”
  • Whether we should try to reclaim the term, “queer”
  • Whether gays should be able to marry
  • Whether queer civil rights should be about liberation or assimilation
  • How best to advocate for more/better access to health care (mostly in light of the AIDS crisis)
  • Whether lesbians should date bisexuals, and what that would mean about their lesbianism
  • Whether gay men occupied too much of the priority list at the top of LGB civil rights
  • Whether butch/femme or androgyny should be the preferred goal for lesbians

Twenty-one years later, we haven’t moved far from these debates, if at all.  Read More…

It’s Not the Same Press Anymore

This article originally ran at I Fry Mine in Butter.

Once upon a time, newspapers like the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, and so on all had reporters posted in far away places from Moscow to Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro to London. These folks were part of a press corps that wrote daily or near-daily stories and sent them back to their editors in the paper’s home town. Each paper published different articles on similar topics, because the ideas around what was “newsworthy” were generally the same, although it was common for one paper to run a story and another not to, if the first paper had confirmation of all of the details but the second one couldn’t muster them together. This is how we all came to know the concept of “getting the scoop” on the competition. Political reporters tried to form relationships with people in the political arena, so that they could get first dibs on juicy quotes or source material. I presume that a lot of backroom dealmaking popped up in this kind of relationship. Agreeing not to mention President Roosevelt’s wheelchair meant that one got to continue to sit in the White House press corps, for example. Agreeing not to mention JFK’s many affairs got them something I don’t know. But something. Read More…

Ebb and Flow

A couple of weeks ago the Boy Scouts caused a stir when they concluded after a two-year assessment, to continue their ban on gay boys and men as scouts and scout leaders. Well, their ban on out gay boys and men, but whatever. On the heels of this the Internet exploded over news-certainly not sudden–that Chick-Fil-A gave substantial money to anti-gay interests, including groups who advocate for killing gay and lesbian people in Uganda, since advocating for that kind of thing on US soil is a big no-no. And while this was going on, NASA was preparing to launch its most ambitious rover mission to Mars. Certainly NASA doesn’t ban people of a queer inclination, but that’s beside the point. My point, since I’ve buried it at the end of this paragraph, is that we humans are capable of astounding progress and horrifying cruelty, and this never fails to fascinate me.

I can’t believe we are still arguing about whether global warming is real or not. Seriously, look at this glacier.

a glacier melts

Read More…

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