Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The sex change teacher and the editor

A LETTER lands on my desk written to parents by the headteacher of our much-lauded Grammar School.
It starts:
“I am writing to inform you that Mr XXXXXX XXXXXX, our Head of XXXXX, is undergoing the process of gender reassignment. After taking leave until the end of term, followed by the summer holidays, Mr XXXXXX will return to school is September as Ms XXXXXX XXXXXXX.”
And so it goes on, praising the courage of Mr X, directing parents to a gender identity research website and asking that they look at it with their son, pointing out that Ms X should be allowed to return to work “without fear of prejudice, intolerance and harassment” and stating that it is “not appropriate” to ask questions about the transition.
I remember someone much more vaunted than me writing about the “lonely hour” of the editor, when you have to decide what to do. I sought out m’learned friend - not really a privacy issue if you don’t name him – and a couple of editor chums, who said they would run with it, both with tasteful provisos.
My biggest concern was not the legal, or even ethical, position but what would the 100,000 or so readers of the Essex Chronicle make of it.
It is one of the best schools in the country, which even managed to put up with me from 1967-74, and an important part of the fabric of our city. As most local paper editors know, readers don’t like it when you run stories that portray community institutions in what might be considered an unfavourable light.
But, having found references to the letter on Twitter, spoken to pupils and got a response from the head, I ran this story, which I think shows the school in a very positive light and shows us to be a responsible local newspaper.
The readers, or even you, may know better. The paper is out this morning so we’ll see.


14 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:39 PM

    As a student at the school I feel this is deeply immoral. You are exploting a very personal event in someone's life to sell your newspaper. It is not front page news, it is not even news, and above all it is not journalism. Like a parasite, you are sucking a grubby little profit from a matter that you have no right to publicise. The positive spin and anonymity are not excuse for what is fundamentally wrong. You are not acting as a 'responsible local newspaper'- frankly you should be ashamed.

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  2. Anonymous2:17 PM

    I am in total agreement with the above comment, I would also like to add, that this is clearly a deeply emotional time in this person's life and it will have been extremely difficult therefore to announce it to his family as well as the whole school, an event made far harder with you putting it as front page news, a vile attempt to be like a tabloid I assume. I would finally like to show my disgust to discover that you are indeed an former pupil from this school, so why pry into such a personal matter?

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