CBS News reportedly instructed its newsroom not to refer to the perpetrator of the Covenant School massacre as “transgender.”
Top executives at the network told staffers in a memo Tuesday that because CBS News has not corroborated the perpetrator’s gender identity, reporters should not include that detail in stories about the massacre.
“The shooter’s gender identity has not been confirmed by CBS News,” said the memo, which was distributed Tuesday on an editorial call. “As such, we should avoid any mention of it as it has no known relevance to the crime. Should that change, we can and will revisit.”
Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews and Claudia Milne are responsible for the directive, according to the New York Post. Ciprian-Matthews is executive vice president of newsgathering at CBS News and the network’s Washington bureau chief. Claudia Milne is senior vice president of standards and practices.
The memo continued, “Right now we advise saying: POLICE IDENTIFIED THE SUSPECT AS A 28-YEAR-OLD [THE KILLER’S NAME], WHO [sic] THEY SHOT AND KILLED AT THE SCENE.”
Rather than focusing stories on the perpetrator’s identity, the memo instructed staff to “focus on other important points of the investigation, community and solutions.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for CBS News appeared to confirm the report:
We are waiting to see the manifesto [written by the perpetrator] and any details about motive. As we say in our guidance, we will then review and revise our reporting.
A search of CBS News’ website further corroborates the directive. The news outlet has published 32 stories related to transgender issues in the past week. Only one of those stories is about the Nashville massacre, and it was published on the day of the atrocity — one day before network executives issued their instructions.
The directive left CBS staffers perplexed because law enforcement has already confirmed the perpetrator was transgender, a biological female who identified as male, and have strongly suggested the perpetrator’s identity is central to the motive for the crime. The killer’s manifesto, however, has not yet been released.
Internal sources who spoke with the New York Post said CBS staffers were stunned by the directive.
“This is absurd because the police identified [the killer] as transgender,” one CBS staffer said. “If the cops didn’t address it, maybe you could avoid it, but withholding information is not journalism.”
“This is not an editorial decision,” another source said. “They made a judgment based on personal feelings.”
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