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3 tips to avoid spreading misinformation about trans people, mental illness and mass shootings


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Following a shooting at a private school in Nashville that killed three students and three teachers, there has been an increase in hateful rhetoric against transgender people, and some journalists have unwittingly contributed to it. Some journalists – to quote misinformation officials – have even validated the myth that people who live with mental illnesses may be more likely to be mass shooters.

Here are some tips to help guide your reporting and constructively refute the misinformation that surround mass shootings and trans people. Share your sources to report responsibly, historically. Physically marginalized people who are subject to harmful stereotypes that have made them the target of personal attacks and hostile legislation. This Associated Press article Donald J. Trump, Jr.’s inflammatory comments, saying there has been an “incredible increase” in mass shootings by trans assailants.

1. It is common for law enforcement officers to share the gender identity of people who commit crimes, and officials in Nashville have said that the 28-year-old man who killed three students and three teachers on Monday was trans, But police have not said whether the shooter’s gender identity is linked to the motive, nor have they said they know for certain that the attacker identified as trans.

It’s sparked confusion in newsrooms across the country — including our own — and some outlets are calling out Trans Journalists Association for guidance. We reached out to Kei Petrin, co-founder of the group and data and graphics journalist at education news outlet Chalkbeat.

“Our advice is to report the facts,” said Petrin, who is non-binary and transgender and uses the pronouns they and they. “Focus on the victims, focus on the consequences,” among other best practices for reporting mass shootings that include downplaying the identity of the shooters.

If reporters are going to address the gender identity of the assailant, Petrin said they should point out that authorities have shared conflicting information and none have confirmed that the shooter self-identified as trans. . Petrin also cautioned against relying on family and acquaintances to confirm one’s gender identity because “not all trans people come out to people in their lives.”

While officials have said the shooter used multiple names, Petrin said the TJA is not providing guidance on which names to use to identify the assailant because it is unclear why the shooter was using them. Was. Some newsrooms have chosen not to use the first and last name shared by officials until they can confirm the name used by the attacker, others have chosen to use the legal name that The shooter allegedly delivered at birth, the social media allegedly used by the assailant, or both, Petrin said.

Petrin said in hundreds of stories about the shooting published this week NBC’s Joe Yurcaba reports Stand out for their accuracy and thoughtful approach to reporting on the shooter’s gender identity.

to reporters Those wishing to reach out to the Trans Journalists Association may email contact@transjournalists.org,

For more information on how to write correctly about transgender people, Take a look at the media guide from Trans Journalists Association, Human Rights Campaign Foundation And this NLGJA: Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists.

2. Most people who live with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses don’t kill people. severe mental illness is absent In most mass murderers and mass shooters. Media outlets have widely reported that Nashville Police Chief John Drake said that Hale was being treated for an “emotional disorder”. But Drake did not explain why he was relevant to the shooting investigation. Although he said that Hale’s parents treated him as their own child. “You shouldn’t have weapons,” Drake did not explain why he made the statement.

one in Post on the Institute’s websiteKelly McBride, Senior vice president and chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, reminds journalists that “Speculation about mental health in the absence of concrete reporting can be harmful.” Jonathan MetzlThe professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, is among the academics who studies gun violence and misconceptions about people with mental illness. their work involves 2015 review In which he and the co-author of the article stated that “Very little population-level evidence supports the notion that individuals with mental illness are more likely than anyone else to commit gun crimes.

3. While there is some debate about whether mass shootings are becoming more common, they are relatively rare Especially when compared to “everyday” shooting which receives very little media coverage. USA Today, The Associated Press and The Washington Post are among the media outlets tracking gun violence trends, and you can read more about those efforts here this article, Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting And this Pew Research Center Those include institutions that offer resources for journalists covering gun violence and the implications of firearm deaths and injuries as a public health issue.

Katherine Reed, AHCJ’s Director of Education and Content, Tara Hailey, AHCJ’s principal subject leader for medical studies, and other reporters have written about gun violence in a public health context for Women’s Health. Check out his articles below:



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