Thursday, December 13, 2012

Radio hosts' rude comments about transgender athlete highlights need for more diversity training

The recent suspension of two hosts of an ESPN Radio affiliate for insensitive comments about a transgender basketball player highlights that the lexicon journalists have needs to be burnished.

It is unknown whether the radio hosts consider themselves journalists, and I will not castigate all sports journalists for the actions of two individuals. However, the column by ESPN’s Christina Kahrl prompted me to tackle this from a different angle.

This post is a request for broadening the diversity training journalists receive. Being a former journalist and a member of different minority advocacy journalism groups, I believe that diversity is often thought of in terms of gender, race and now sexual orientation. While the categories appear varied, the groups in these categories are far from static.

People do not easily fit into the labels society provides. The article USA Today’s Eric Prisbell wrote about Gabrielle Ludwig explains this well. I also freely acknowledge that if I were copy editing Prisbell’s article, I would feel extremely underqualified to edit it without reading additional literature on transgender individuals.

Journalists are not sheltered people. They interact with various members of society, especially in sports where a huge cross-section of society sits. That cross-section is only going to become more diverse in the years to come.

The news media cannot ignore a group of people or act as if they do not exist. If work to broaden diversity training to include transgender athletes is not done soon, journalists will quickly find themselves ill-equipped in an ever-growing sports landscape.

-- Steve Bien-Aimé

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