There are certain topics that anger the New York Times so much that the newspaper's editors drop all pretension of covering the story with any sense of accuracy and balance. Usually, media outlets have at least one dissenting voice explaining the minority point of view, but when it comes to anything to do with LGBT issues -- plus the perception of a law being passed without public scrutiny -- the Times erupts in righteous anger.
The first incident I’m about to describe occurred in North Carolina, a fairly conservative state. But there is a second, much lesser-known incident that occurred in Washington state that was the mirror opposite of what happened in Tar Heel land.
About the first: There was a lot of indignation in several media outlets covering the North Carolina governor’s decision to sign a bill banning transgendered people from bathrooms that don’t match their birth gender and eliminating some anti-discrimination protections for homosexuals. Here is how the Times framed it:
A day after Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed a sweeping law eliminating anti-discrimination protections for all lesbians, gays and bisexuals and barring transgender people from using bathrooms that do not match the gender they were born with, the battle lines were clear in a bitterly divided state.
On social media and in public rallies, civil rights groups, businesses and politicians expressed dismay at the law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by the governor within just 12 hours during a hasty special session on Wednesday.
American Airlines, which employs 14,000 people in the state and has its second largest hub in Charlotte, along with other companies with operations in the state, including Apple, Dow Chemical, PayPal, Red Hat and Biogen, all issued statements critical of the new law.
“Our future as Americans should be focused on inclusion and prosperity, and not discrimination and division,” Apple said in a statement. “We were disappointed to see Governor McCrory sign this legislation.”
The immediate trigger for the legislature’s action was the passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte last month that would permit transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, rather than their gender at birth. But the law passed by the legislature on Wednesday night, which prohibits municipalities from passing their own ordinances allowing such bathroom use, also prevents cities from protecting gays and bisexual people against discrimination generally.
Then, six paragraphs into the story, the newspaper adds one paragraph alluding to the other side and linked to one conservative group’s Facebook page and an insert showing a Tweet by another conservative group.
Note: Human voices on one side of the debate, with tiny online snippets for the other.
Conservative groups, using the hashtag #keepncsafe, were quick to praise the legislature and thanked the governor for signing a bill they said would protect women and children from unwanted advances from biological males in bathrooms.
We call this Kellerism here at GetReligion, a term that means that a media outlet has made up its mind on a certain hot button issue to the point where there is no legitimate other side to the story. Thus, only one point of view is expressed.
The next two paragraphs were a quote from an academic and then the rest of the story was infill from outraged liberals.
Did the Times even consider calling someone from the North Carolina Values Coalition or the governor’s office or certain GOP politicians to at least try to balance the story? Did anyone try to talk to traditional Catholic leaders, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Mormons, evangelical Protestants and others on the cultural right?
Nope. Further down, we hear from a local business leader:
“It’s so un-American, and it’s so shortsighted,” said Mr. Gold, who is gay. “The folks that want this passed -- when you look at who are these people, they are the people who are using their outdated, misguided ill-informed religious teachings to discriminate.”
Er, what religious teachings? We are not told.
Next came a Washington Post story that gave just a tad more representation to the conservative point of view and concentrated on threats from groups such as the National Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to reject North Carolina cities as host sites for their games.
I’ve got two questions about all of this. First, why is it that when the Southern Baptists decide to boycott Disney in the 1990s for its pro-gay policies, they’re called “nuts” and worse but when the NBA threatens a boycott, i.e. moving its 2017 All-Star game out of Charlotte, it’s treated with respect?
And why is it that North Carolina is a “pioneer in bigotry” after its legislature met in special session to “ram the bill through” (thus saith the NYT’s editorial board) when a similar incident in Washington state got no condemnation whatsoever? I’m talking about the state Human Rights Commission’s rule, which went into effect Dec. 26 allowing people to use public bathrooms according to individual claims of gender preference.
The local media’s silence on this was deafening. I began hearing about it on social media and the Washington Times ran a story about it from 3,000 miles away on Dec. 31. The Daily Signal, also out of DC, weighed in on it Jan. 4.
Media folks on the West Coast finally began to wake up and The Stranger, a far left Seattle magazine, reported on it on Jan. 6. The Seattle Times finally got around to it Jan. 9, some two weeks after the fact.
This may have been the first time an entire state mandated that public bathrooms accede to the gender-identity concept.
Where was the New York Times on this massive concession? Where was their indignant anger at such a rule being activated during Christmas holidays when most folks were on vacation?
But pass a law that forbids people to use bathrooms based on their “gender identity,” and the media goes up in flames as illustrated in this Washington Post story.
It’s sad that media reacted so predictably by ignoring one story and blowing up another. It’s the worst kind of journalism and unfortunately, lately this has become the journalism rule, rather than the exception.