01 May 2013

Murder, Then Character Assassination

Have standards at journalism schools declined even more than I'd imagined?

I'm asking that question after seeing the way a major metropolitan newspaper--one that was once one of the most respected in all of journalism--covered the murder of a transgender woman.

For starters, Cleveland Plain-Dealer reporter John Caniglia used male pronouns in referring to Cemia "Ci Ci" Dove.  He also referred to her as "Carl Acoff" in his dispatch on 29 April. The male pronouns have since been removed but, in the story, she is still identified as "Carl Acoff."  Mr. Caniglia very cleverly got around having to use female pronouns by referring to her as a "self-identified transgender woman."

Oh, but it gets better.  This Caniglia person simply had to tell his readers that Ci Ci was dressed in a Betty Boop tank top, three black bras and a light hooded jacket. As if this isn't enough to trivialize her, he also mentions that she was naked from the waist down.  I don't think I have to tell you what sort of picture he and his editors were trying to paint.

Also, he mentions some previous criminal activity.  I neither condone nor excuse such behavior, but trans people--especially the young--are often driven to desperate measures, especially if their families and former friends and acquaintances have disavowed them. I suspect that such was the case for Ms. Dove for, as Caniglia reports, attempts to contact her family were unsuccessful.

After such sensationalism, the fact that she died so brutally and lay at the bottom of a pond for, probably, a month or more, is almost lost by its placement later in the article.  What's really sad is that, as awful as it is to be repeatedly stabbed, tied to a block of concrete and dumped into a freezing pond, it doesn't even come close to being one of the most gruesome attacks ever committed on a trans person.

To add insult to injury, it wasn't bad enough for Caniglia to simply be sensationalistic and to trade in stereotypes.  His editors brought the quality of his story even further down with this headline: "Brutal Slaying Marks Clevelander's Fight for Acceptance."

What the fuck?  The stabbing ended Ci Ci Dove's life, at age twenty.  I mean, if we follow that editor's line of reasoning and have his or her command of the English language, we would say that the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 marked the end of his Presidential campaign.

What the hell are they teaching (or not teaching) in J-schools these days?

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