Bruce Jenner Transgender Reporting: Why ABC News Used Male Pronouns - iMediaEthics

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A screenshot from Diane Sawyer's interview with Bruce Jenner (Credit: ABC News, screenshot)

In a much-anticipated interview, Bruce Jenner confirmed the rumors that he is transitioning and identifies as a transgender woman.

The news also raises questions of how media should report on transgender issues and which pronoun to use for Jenner.

ABC News, whose Diane Sawyer scored the exclusive, highly-watched interview with the Olympic medalist, used male pronouns.

The network explained its reasoning: “During the interview, Jenner referred to himself using male pronouns and ABC News has chosen to follow his lead, though he also referred to himself as ‘Bruce’ and ‘her’.”

ABC News told iMediaEthics earlier this year it wouldn’t pay for or license materials for the interview with Jenner.

After the interview and news broke, GLAAD explained why it is best to refer to Jenner with male pronouns right now.

“At this time, Bruce Jenner has not requested that a new name or pronoun be used, therefore we are respecting his wishes and will continue to refer to Jenner by his current name and with male pronouns. Some transgender people prefer to change their name and/or pronoun quickly. Other transgender people may take more time to decide what name and/or pronoun feels right to them. To be respectful, use the name and/or pronoun requested by the individual.”

GLAAD also provided a tip sheet of advice for reporting on Jenner and transgender issues. It includes:

  • “DO use the name and pronoun a transgender person prefers.”
  • “DO consider including a sentence in your story that explains that you will be referring to Bruce Jenner with his birth name and male pronouns because he has not indicated that he prefers a new name or pronoun be used”
  • “DO describe people who transition as transgender, and use transgender as an adjective.  For example, ‘Bruce Jenner is a transgender woman.’ AVOID statements like ‘Bruce Jenner is a transgender.’ Do NOT use ‘transgendered’ – transgender never needs an extraneous ‘-ed’ at the end. Do NOT use ‘transsexual’ or ‘transvestite.'”

CNN pointed out that the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association posted an open letter before the interview with Jenner advising journalists on proper standards for reporting on Jenner.

In Touch magazine stirred controversy when it Photoshopped a picture of Jenner apparently with an image of a British actress to make him look like a woman, adding make up and women’s clothing. In Touch also claimed, falsely, Jenner would make the transition announcement with LGBT news site the Advocate, which called out the lie, as iMediaEthics reported at the time.

The New York Times‘ public editor responded to criticism from  readers asking why this Februray it published articles about the rumors of Jenner’s transition when it had not been confirmed.

Back in March, Us Weekly apologized after publishing an interview with Kendall Jenner which she said was faked.

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Bruce Jenner Transgender Reporting: Why ABC News Used Male Pronouns

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