IPSO Blog: Guidance on researching and reporting stories featuring transgender individuals

Part of my role as Head of Standards is to develop editorial guidance. I’m delighted to say that today IPSO has published its first piece of editorial guidance. The guidance represents an important step for IPSO in its work to support journalists to meet the Editors’ Code of Practice and I wanted to talk about why and how IPSO developed the guidance

Why did IPSO produce the guidance?

The Editors’ Code sets the framework for the highest professional standards for journalists. IPSO recognise that there are some situations where it is helpful to produce guidance which explores in more detail how the Editors’ Code applies to particular themes or issues. One such area is the researching or writing of stories featuring transgender individuals, or discussing transgender issues.

In January 2016, the Editors’ Code was changed to make clear that the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s gender identify and that details of an individual’s gender identity must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story. Equally, coverage of transgender issues is a fast moving area as there is increasing public awareness of the issues faced by the transgender community and the language used to talk about gender identity and gender transition is also changing.

What is the guidance for?

This guidance does not replace or supersede either the Editors’ Code or the Codebook, nor does it limit or restrict editorial decision making. The guidance explores key questions for journalists and editors to think about as they write these stories, provides detailed discussion of key issues and highlights other organisations that may be able to help journalists or editors.

How did IPSO develop the guidance?

IPSO engaged with transgender individuals and journalists whilst developing the guidance.

All About Trans (a non-profit project that encourages better understanding between trans people and the media) facilitated two events for IPSO - one event brought together staff at IPSO and transgender volunteers, whilst the other event brought together senior staff at national newspapers and transgender volunteers. Both occasions saw lively and thoughtful discussion and gave me a good insight both into the challenges facing the transgender community and the impact of both supportive and challenging media coverage on the community. I’d also like to thank Mermaids (a charity that supports children and young people who are suffering from gender identity issues, as well as their families) for hosting a very thoughtful meeting with parents of transgender teens full of rich discussion about the particular challenges their families and children face.

IPSO couldn’t have produced the guidance without this engagement, nor without the meetings held with other groups representing transgender individuals. I am extremely grateful to all those who contributed to the guidance.

If you have any comments or thoughts on the guidance, please contact Jane Debois, Head of Standards, jane.debois@ipso.co.uk