The union representing staff at The New York Times has accused the paper of putting transgender reporters “in danger” by using “deadnames” on old articles.
The New York Times Guild, which represents over 1,300 workers at the Times, put out a Twitter thread on Thursday claiming that the paper was resisting a proposed change to reporters’ contracts which would require the Times to change the old bylines of transgender reporters to match their new identities. The union said the Times was risking the lives of its trans reporters by not adopting the change.
“We made some progress with management during our bargaining session yesterday, but there is one big sticking point: Our demand that @nytimes use our trans journalists’ correct names on past and current bylines,” the guild said. “Currently, The Times only uses the correct names for work published AFTER an employee transitions. This effectively deadnames them in every piece of previously published work.”
“This puts our trans colleagues in danger. The company is resisting our contract language to correct this safety issue, citing the sanctity of the archives as a reason for this policy,” it continued. “We think the safety of our colleagues is paramount. In a company presentation on our standards, @nytimes says it removes photos & names when the ability to find them online poses a genuine threat in person or online. But management won’t commit to this for our trans colleagues.”
“Violence against trans individuals is well-documented. We call on @nytimes management now to honor its archives policy & to protect its trans journalists by using their correct names in their bylines—so colleagues do not have to put themselves at risk simply for doing their jobs,” the union concluded.
The Times reiterated its policy in a statement to The Wrap. “Our practice is to maintain archived articles as they were originally published, and not to retroactively change names in bylines or articles. At a reporter’s request, we would use a new byline on future articles,” a Times spokesperson said.
The Times’ spokesperson also pointed to the paper’s style guidelines for referring to trans people: “Referring to a transgender or nonbinary person’s former name, or deadname, can be seen as offensive and requires a thorough discussion between reporter and editor. In some cases, such a reference may be necessary to provide a full picture to readers — for example, in the obituary of a person known for newsworthy accomplishments under the former name. But generally do not use the name more than once in an article, and ensure that the pertinence is clear to readers. Avoid such references in display and social copy. (The term deadname itself may be unfamiliar to some readers and should generally be restricted to quotations and explained.)”
The struggle between the union and the paper over policies governing the bylines of trans reporters has been going on for months. The union as well as a series of progressive and LGBT activist groups have hammered the Times for refusing to change its policy. In July, the Trans Journalist Association called the Times’ decision “unacceptable.”
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