in Analysis and Commentary

Local news station WSOC dug in their heels early this week, continuing to air inaccurate and transphobic news reports regarding new LGBT-inclusive ordinances under consideration by Charlotte City Council. All this despite considerable conversation and outreach regarding these concerns from community leaders and community members.

WSOC didn’t air a story on the Tuesday 11 p.m. broadcast, though they aired a still-problematic and transphobic report on their 5 p.m. broadcast. They’ve also yet to apologize for their transphobic Facebook post and retract it or apologize for their reporting and retract it.

You can read my original, in-depth response and several updates here.

I’ve reached out to follow up with WSOC General Manager Joe Pomilla and expect to speak to him this afternoon. If you haven’t yet called to voice your concerns about their reporting, I still encourage you to do so. The news cycle might have shifted now, but the topic will back in less than two weeks, as Council takes up the matter on Feb. 23. The newsroom’s number is 704-335-4871.

Despite the attention on WSOC, other local news stations deserve some credit. Where WSOC failed so miserably, other stations were able to excel. I’m aware of only two who’ve covered so far, though at least another might cover the topic today.

WCNC / NBC Charlotte

I thought NBC Charlotte’s report was balanced and fair. First, it didn’t rely on sensationalized “predator”-style scare tactics to hook viewers. Second, it included personal story and comments from Paige Dula, a local transgender community member and leader. It’s important for news stations to seek voices like Dula’s when discussing issues that affect them. Trans people are people, not issues to be debated in their absence.

And, even with Dula’s comments, the station was also able to adequately and accurately include the concerns expressed from some of the Council members opposed to the ordinance.

There was just one mistake — mixing up “transgender man” versus “transgender woman.” But, I think, that’s perhaps a simple issue of education, not intent on the part of the station or reporter.

I’d “rate” this report an A- or B+, but I’m more curious what trans folks think. Thoughts?

TWC News

The station’s videos have limited views, so you can click over to watch on their page.

But my feedback and “rate” for them is much the same as it is for NBC Charlotte. There was one mix-up — I’m not sure it was best to use “transsexual” — but overall the piece was able to capture all sides and treat all sides with human dignity, instead of relying on base scare tactics and viewer fears.

Media Guides

Much of this week’s concerns over WSOC’s reporting stems from a severe lack of awareness and education. Other stations have seemed to recognize their blind spot here and taken efforts to correct it. WSOC didn’t. They just ran with whatever stereotype or prejudice first entered their mind.

If you work in media, click through to the links below. They’ll help you navigate important issues when reporting on transgender people.

“Reporting on Transgender Issues: A Reference Guide for North Carolina Media” (PDF), ACLU of North Carolina.

“Reporting About Transgender People? Read This. HRC’s Brief Guide to Getting It Right,” Human Rights Campaign.


Take action before Feb. 23’s Council vote: WSOC continued to air inaccurate reports filled with transphobia, even after extensive conversations and concerns aired by LGBT community members and leaders. Was the station intentionally misinforming the public and intentionally stirring anti-LGBT and transphobic sentiment? Will they intentionally do the same when Council considered ordinance updates on Feb. 23. If you haven’t yet called, do so today and voice your concerns regarding their biased, inaccurate, incomplete and transphobic report. You can call news director Julie Szulczewski or executive producer Randy Wardell at the news room at 704-335-4871 or through their main switchboard at 704-338-9999.

Write a Comment

Comment