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Meet Lewis Wallace: Trans Reporter Fired for Writing About Journalistic Integrity in Trump Era

StoryFebruary 03, 2017
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Until last week, Lewis Wallace was the only out transgender reporter at the public radio show “Marketplace.” Then he published a blog post on the website Medium about journalistic neutrality and the challenges of being a transgender journalist who covers the current administration. Under the headline “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it,” he questioned whether people who hold “morally reprehensible” positions, such as supporting white supremacy, can be covered objectively, and he argued journalists shouldn’t care if they are called “politically correct” or “liberal.” “Marketplace” said Wallace’s blog post violated its code of ethics. It suspended him for writing it and asked him to take it down. When he later republished it, he was fired. Lewis Wallace joins us to explain what he wrote, and why.

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Video squareWeb ExclusiveFeb 03, 2017Trans Reporter Lewis Wallace: In Trump Era, Journalists Urgently Need to Know What We Stand For
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to the story of a reporter who wrote a blog post about journalistic neutrality under President Donald Trump and found himself out of a job. Until last week, Lewis Wallace was the only out transgender reporter at the public radio show Marketplace. Then he published a blog post on the website Medium about journalistic neutrality and the challenges of being a transgender journalist who covers the current administration. Under the headline “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it,” he questioned whether people who hold, quote, “morally reprehensible” positions, such as supporting white supremacy, can be covered objectively. And he argued journalists shouldn’t care if they’re called “politically correct” or “liberal.” He also wrote, quote, “After years of silence/denial about our existence, the media has finally picked up trans stories, but the nature of the debate is over whether or not we should be allowed to live and participate in society, use public facilities and expect not to be harassed, fired or even killed,” unquote. Marketplace said Wallace’s blog post violated its code of ethics. It suspended him for writing it and asked him to take it down. When he later republished it, he was fired.

For more, Lewis Wallace joins us here in our New York studio. But first I want to read the response from Marketplace's director of communications, Angie Anderson. She said they don't discuss personnel matters about current or former employees, but she gave us a statement that, quote, “The broader issue around journalistic ethics is an ongoing one for the industry. … For Marketplace, it’s very clear. We are committed to raising the economic intelligence of all Americans. We accomplish that with independent and objective reporting that is based on facts, pursues the truth, and covers what’s happening in a fair and neutral way. Our journalists’ mission is to be honest, impartial, nonpartisan and independent in their work. Our team is a diverse group of professionals who have committed to that code of ethics,” unquote.

That’s the statement from Marketplace about the firing of Lewis Wallace. Lewis, your response?

LEWIS WALLACE: Well, you know, it’s a really sort of complicated series of events that went on that led to me losing my job. But, fundamentally, I think a lot of journalists all over the country, in public radio stations and in other types of organizations, as well, are thinking really seriously about where is the center, where is our moral compass and how are we going to report on an administration that assertively pushes lies, talks about ideas like alternative facts.

I never did a story for Marketplace that was accused of bias or of being partial or unethical. This was more of a big picture discussion that I wanted to carry on with other journalists. That discussion is going on now, and I’m really happy to see that that’s happening. And I think that the sad thing has been learning from a lot of other journalists around the country that they’re afraid to raise these questions, and, in particular, journalists of color or transgender journalists who are in newsrooms that are mostly white, where decisions are—journalistic decisions are being made from sort of a certain perspective, and we’re all aware that that perspective affects how we cover stories. We should cover them truthfully. We should cover them fairly. But I still think we should be questioning kind of the meaning of neutrality in this time. And a lot of people want to have that conversation, and they shouldn’t have to be afraid to have it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to continue the conversation after the show, and we’re going to post it online at democracynow.org. Our guest, Lewis Wallace, fired from the national radio outlet Marketplace on Monday after posting on his personal blog about journalistic neutrality and the challenges of being a transgender journalist in this era of alternative facts. That does it for our show. We’ll also link to his piece.

A very happy birthday to Hugh Gran.

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Trans Reporter Lewis Wallace: In Trump Era, Journalists Urgently Need to Know What We Stand For

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