Take slanted coverage with missing data, and what do you get? Possibly a negative impression about the news without a solid understanding of exactly what the problem is. This is the case with much of the coverage of Sessions’ Title VII policy change.
The articles we looked at are slanted against Sessions’ change and generally suggest he – and the Trump administration in general – is supporting discrimination against transgender people with “far-reaching implications” and negative effects. However, the outlets, for the most part, don’t include information that would show what the impact of the change might be or how many people it could affect. Without that, we may adopt the bias of the articles without critically understanding the issue.
Let’s look at (1) the slanted coverage that portrays Sessions’ change as supporting discrimination and hurting transgender people, and (2) the missing data that, if provided, could help readers better understand what the problem is.
Bias against Sessions’ decision
The outlets include interpretations that Sessions is supporting discrimination or targeting transgender people, emphasize opinions critical of Sessions, and only some articles include that Sessions explicitly says he isn’t supporting discrimination.
For instance, Buzzfeed says the memo “reflects” the DOJ’s “aggression toward LGBT rights under President Trump and Sessions.” Yet, changing policy on how a law is interpreted isn’t necessarily coming from “aggression.” The Washington Post includes a quote saying it’s the “latest example” of the Trump administration “undermining equal rights and dignity” for LGBT people. Only two outlets quote the Sessions memo saying the DOJ “must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals” and that it doesn’t condone mistreating transgender people.
Missing data about the problem
In an ideal world, all people would be treated well at work and judged only by the merits of their job performance. Discrimination on any basis wouldn’t happen. The news articles give the impression that this will be a heightened problem with the Title VII policy change. But how would this policy change affect it? Most media coverage really doesn’t say. For instance, coverage we analyzed is completely or mostly missing the following.
How will this change what the DOJ does for cases of transgender discrimination?
o Only The New York Times explains that the DOJ will no longer argue sex-based discrimination cases for transgender plaintiffs. None mention that transgender people could still bring private cases that don’t go through the DOJ, if the EEOC grants a Notice of Right-to-Sue.
How many transgender people say they experience discrimination at work and what does it consist of?
o This 2011 study of 6,456 transgender people reports that 90 percent of transgender people interviewed encountered some form of discrimination or harassment, and 47 percent of respondents reported they had experienced negative actions by their employers, such as job loss, or being denied a promotion.
How many estimated transgender people are there in the U.S.?
o The Williams Institute estimated in 2016 about 0.6 percent of the adult population, or 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender. There is no official number.
Do any other laws protect transgender people at work?
o The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which was created under Title VII to enforce it, maintains that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is prohibited and represents people in such cases.
o As with all employees, transgender people still have non-sex based workplace protectionslike the right to unionize and protection from wrongful termination.
Written by Julia Berry López
Edited by Julia Berry López and Rosa Laura Junco
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Jens Erik Gould
Jens is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News