in Analysis and Commentary

WSOC: Trans lives are good fodder for ratings

Charlotte news station WSOC must think that the lives of transgender people are good fodder for ratings. What else would explain their willingness to report on a transgender Concord doctor’s decision to affirm her gender?

On Wednesday, WSOC reported on the Concord doctor’s gender affirmation, which had been shared with her patients via a letter written from her and another letter written from Carolinas Healthcare Systems.

The Wednesday report follows two days this week in which WSOC has almost relentlessly pursued inaccurate, unbalanced and prejudiced coverage of local LGBT-inclusive ordinance changes. Their reports have inaccurately described the effects of the ordinance and unfairly spread prejudices regarding transgender people — particularly linking them to predators.

Related commentaries:
WSOC’s biased reports favor transphobia, Feb. 10
Where WSOC failed, other stations excelled, Feb. 11

The report on the doctor was relatively tame, though, compared to the kind of fear-mongering WSOC spread via Facebook and their on-air reports on Monday and Tuesday. I’d like to hope that all the community members who have been calling WSOC had an effect on the station’s ability to show more nuance in their report on the doctor.

Still, there are major problems and concerns left unaddressed by WSOC.

First, they’ve yet to apologize for or take down their Monday Facebook post, which insinuated that transgender women were merely men in dresses and linked them to predators. And they’ve yet to apologize for or retract their on-air reports, which were factually inaccurate and continued to show bias against transgender people.

And, despite the seeming nuance in their Wednesday report on the doctor, there are important questions WSOC must answer:

Why did you pursue this story?
Viewers aren’t told why WSOC pursued the story. The station originally reported on the story online, citing only the letter from Carolinas Healthcare. Their later on-air report also cited a letter from the doctor. But, how did they come about this information? Did a patient bring the story to them? Viewers deserve to know what prompted the story? A complaint? The on-air report gives us no answer, as it’s clear WSOC had to travel to the doctor’s office to speak to patients; patients didn’t come to WSOC.

Why was this news?
Why did WSOC report on this matter at all? Does WSOC report on every medical or personal decision made by other doctors or professionals in town? This particular doctor’s gender affirmation was a personal matter, which she chose to share with her own clients and patients. Why is this a matter of concern to the metro area’s more than 2.3 million people?

Did WSOC speak to the doctor?
We don’t know. WSOC doesn’t tell us if they tried to reach out to her and she isn’t quoted by WSOC, outside of her remarks lifted from her letter. As far as I can tell, the story was a standalone piece, with no input from the doctor and with her not given the opportunity to represent her life on her own terms and merit. As I’ve stated already this week: Trans people are people, not issues to be debated in their absence.

Has WSOC not yet taken any effort to understand transgender people and issues?
It doesn’t seem the station has. I’ve heard from others who have done interviews with them that they continue to victimize those who would actually harm trans people, and villainize trans folks. At least one reporter has referred off-camera to trans folks as “transexuals” and gay folks as “homosexual.” Minor offenses, for sure, but key indicators that the station lacks any good awareness or insight on LGBT people. And, during their on-air report on Wednesday, it showed, with gay anchor — yes, the irony; a gay man is one of the station’s lead anchors — describes the doctor’s gender affirmation as “in the process of transforming from a man to a woman.”

Why did WSOC misgender the doctor?
It’s clear in the letters WSOC has access to that the doctor is “currently undergoing” her gender affirmation. The Carolinas Healthcare letter even opts not to use any gender-specific pronouns at all. Yet, WSOC flashes a photo of the doctor on the screen, uses her male name and male pronouns. Again, all indicative that the station does not understand and has done little to understand trans issues or people.

Why are you still sensationalizing trans people?
The on-air report was far more nuanced that any other trans- or LGBT-related report the station has aired this week. But, WSOC couldn’t resist to jump at the opportunity to throw in some kind of sensationalism.

“A local pediatrician is going through the transition from man to woman,” anchor Blair Miller said in a short promo before a commercial break, followed by a shortened clip quoting a woman, “When we found out, we went ahead and switched.”

Oh My! Why!? Why did she switch!? Does she have a problem with the doctor now? Is she mad or upset? Is she transphobic?

WSOC will tell you after the break… when we find out this woman isn’t mad, isn’t upset, isn’t stark-raving mad with prejudice. In fact, she seems quite fine with it all. She just prefers that her son have a male doctor and now that won’t be the case. She’s also not quite ready to have a conversation about gender identity with her young son. Seems reasonable to me.

WSOC is the only station in Charlotte that seems to have so consistently — and, at this point it’s accurate: so intentionally — gotten so very much wrong about transgender people. Despite phone calls and expressed concerns, WSOC has moved very little and continues to treat transgender lives as fodder for TV entertainment.

In addition, they’ve consistently — again, intentionally — misled and misinformed the public several times on important facts as they relate proposed ordinance changes in Charlotte. It’s not a matter of perspective — WSOC has been flat-out inaccurate.

And, they have neglected to publicly apologize or retract any of it. To my knowledge, they’ve done little if any outreach to meet with LGBT, particularly trans, community leaders or members in any sort of effort to correct their mistakes and prejudice.

This is not a station of journalistic integrity or accuracy.

They are a station that relies on prejudice and falsehoods in order to gin up viewership.

Nothing else can explain WSOC’s clear and persistent intransigence.

WSOC should adopt new meanings for its call letters. I have the perfect suggestion:


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  1. You wrote:> At least one reporter has referred off-camera to trans folks as “transexuals” and gay folks as “homosexual.”

    . I consider myself having transexuality, although referring to me as a transexual is correct. And gays are homosexuals just like lesbians. Did I miss something?

    • Hey Sophie,

      Thanks for reading.

      I don’t think the terms are always or necessarily problematic, but they can be. They also, especially with the rest of the context regarding this particular station, point to a lack of awareness.

      From GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide’s “Terms to Avoid”:

      Offensive: “homosexual” (n. or adj.)
      Preferred: “gay” (adj.); “gay man” or “lesbian” (n.); “gay person/people”
      Please use gay or lesbian to describe people attracted to members of the same sex. Because of the clinical history of the word “homosexual,” it is aggressively used by anti-gay extremists to suggest that gay people are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered – notions discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s. Please avoid using “homosexual” except in direct quotes. Please also avoid using “homosexual” as a style variation simply to avoid repeated use of the word “gay.” The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post restrict use of the term “homosexual” (see AP & New York Times Style).

      Offensive: “homosexual relations/relationship,” “homosexual couple,” “homosexual sex,” etc.
      Preferred: “relationship,” “couple” (or, if necessary, “gay couple”), “sex,” etc.
      Identifying a same-sex couple as “a homosexual couple,” characterizing their relationship as “a homosexual relationship,” or identifying their intimacy as “homosexual sex” is extremely offensive and should be avoided. These constructions are frequently used by anti-gay extremists to denigrate gay people, couples and relationships.

      As a rule, try to avoid labeling an activity, emotion or relationship gay, lesbian, or bisexual unless you would call the same activity, emotion or relationship “straight” if engaged in by someone of another orientation. In most cases, your readers, viewers or listeners will be able to discern people’s sexes and/or orientations through the names of the parties involved, your depictions of their relationships, and your use of pronouns.

      From GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide’s fact sheet on transgender terminology:

      Transgender (adj.)
      An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms – including transgender. Some of those terms are defined below. Use the descriptive term preferred by the individual. Many transgender people are prescribed hormones by their doctors to change their bodies. Some undergo surgery as well. But not all transgender people can or will take those steps, and a transgender identity is not dependent upon medical procedures.

      Transsexual (adj.)
      An older term that originated in the medical and psychological communities. Still preferred by some people who have permanently changed – or seek to change – their bodies through medical interventions (including but not limited to hormones and/or surgeries). Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers. If preferred, use as an adjective: transsexual woman or transsexual man.