IPSO Blog: Examining editorial standards in coverage of transgender issues

As an independent regulator of press standards, some of the most contentious and sensitive issues we handle relate to the reporting of transgender matters.

I believe – based on our internal monitoring – that coverage of transgender matters has changed in recent years. But I know that this is heavily contested by transgender individuals; those who support them; and by journalists reporting on this topic.

A free press exercising its rights to speak freely will, properly, produce a plurality of views, contributions to debate, and journalistic approaches, styles and practices. The way the media covers transgender people and gender transition can have a significant impact on individuals and social attitudes, and also continues to generate wider debate. It raises difficult questions about the balance between being aware of the impact of press reporting and commentary on potentially vulnerable individuals, and ensuring that it is still possible to report freely on these social issues.

IPSO has commissioned Mediatique, who undertook well received research to support the Cairncross Review, to carry out research into editorial standards in the reporting of transgender matters. The research will involve quantitative mapping of coverage of transgender matters in the last ten years, as well as qualitative interviews with industry figures, groups representing the transgender community and other relevant stakeholders including groups campaigning on women's issues.

The research will explore what changes there have been in editorial standards and what the most successful drivers for this change have been. As a regulator whose role is to promote and uphold high editorial standards, we are particularly interested in understanding how editorial standards in relation to a specific topic change over time. I believe that this research will offer valuable insights both to IPSO and to other groups seeking to raise standards in specific subject areas.

In addition, the coverage of transgender matters is currently under-researched and there are gaps in the evidence base around the standards of reporting and impact on individuals. This research will create a new evidence base for discussions of media coverage in this area.

In 2016, IPSO launched well-received guidance on the reporting of transgender matters. Since then, we have continued to engage with organisations interested in coverage of this area. By examining changes in the reporting in this area and the continuing challenges facing both transgender individuals and journalists writing about these issues, I hope to shed new light on this challenging area.