As the Pride month draws to a close, we looked at the impact that LGBTQ+ journalists have on the media industry.
These low numbers can be felt at the news desk, according to Tufayel Ahmed, the news editor of the LGBTQ+ news site Pink News.
"There is a distinct lack of diversity not just around LGBTQ+ people but I’ve been in newsrooms where I’ve been the only Asian person, for example," said Ahmed, in a podcast with Journalism.co.uk.
According to Ahmed, the issue of diversity is still unresolved and it can have damaging consequences, such as allowing outdated and inappropriate language to go unchallenged.
In particular, he refers to the usage of incorrect pronouns for transgender people and other phrases that are not acceptable anymore. Even established titles can get important contexts wrong.
An online article by The Sunday Times alleged that women were in danger from potential changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. This was despite the fact that transgender women have had the right to access women-only spaces and services since The Equality Act 2010 came into force, and consultations made it clear this would not change.
The article was subsequently removed from the website following a ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
"There hasn’t been armageddon as a result of the act. Perhaps some of these newspapers are trying to wilfully rile up anti-transgender sentiment in the same way that was once written about people with HIV," said Ahmed.
In the 1980s, coverage around HIV-positive people fuelled stigma around gay and bisexual men. Now, there is a risk that history will repeat itself, he warned.
"The way the news works is there is a bogeyman for a time, and then you move onto the next one. Today, the bogeyman is the transgender community."
To address this, Ahmed suggested hiring strategy could use peer-led interviews to get a “more robust overview of who a person is". Pink News also uses unconscious bias training and a ‘blind hiring process’ to prioritise skills and talent.
The hope is that by introducing more people from the LGBTQ+ community, newsrooms can become better educated and standards of reporting can improve.
Despite some progress in approaches by major news organisations, Ahmed that the battle for equality is far from won.
A particular challenge for many journalists outside of the LGBTQ+ community is that they mean well, but find reporting around the topic difficult in fear of backlash should they get it wrong.
"It's good that people are conscious that they might cause offence by accidentally use the wrong pronoun," said Ahmed.
"Even in a publication like Pink News where we are hugely lead by a LGBTQ+ editorial team, slip ups will happen. The intention is obviously not for that to happen, but people should not shy away from covering LGBTQ+ issues because they are concerned they might accidentally cause offence and go viral."
Journalists can learn best practices from allies in the community, and Ahmed said his publication is available to lend a helping hand.
"Reach out to Pink News and we can put together a reporting guideline. There are other organisations such as GLAAD who have a lot of information on how to report around LGBT issues. Make sure you feel equipped to report stuff because it is important that everybody is able to cover it."
Come along to Newsrewired on the 27 November at Reuters in London where we will be discussing how to drive diversity in your newsroom. Head over to newsrewired.com for the full agenda and tickets
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