Tuesday 4 June 2024

USA Today May Have Violated Own Ethical Standards In Deleting Op-Ed From Republican Senator Over ‘Loaded Language’

 USA Today may have violated its own ethical standards by deleting an op-ed about protecting women’s sports by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) without his knowledge or explanation to the public. 

While USA Today promises to provide its readers with “transparency” about its journalistic processes it left its audience and Kennedy guessing for days as to why it deleted an opinion article written by the Republican senator on keeping males out of female sports. 

The op-ed, titled “Is transgender inclusion more important than women’s sports?” was published on May 11 but was deleted from the USA Today Network newspapers by May 14. In the op-ed, Kennedy argued that it was harmful to girls for males identifying as female to be allowed to compete in women’s sports. 

For the first 10 days after deleting Kennedy’s article, audiences were led to believe there had been a technical error. However, after Fox News reached out to inquire about the deletion, USA Today added a note to a link to the article saying it had not met its editorial standards.

The delay in explaining what was going on to USA Today readers and Kennedy appears to fly in the face of one of USA Today’s ethical guidelines, which says that the outlet “will explain to audiences our journalistic processes to promote transparency and engagement.”

Kennedy says the newspaper acted anything but transparently.

“One of America’s largest outlets censored a common sense position that an overwhelming majority of Americans and Louisianians hold,” a spokesperson for Kennedy told The Daily Wire. “And they tried to hide the fact that they squelched it. It took the USA Today network well over a week to admit to the public that they had secretly removed the senator’s piece, which raises a lot of questions about some mainstream media’s willingness to be transparent with American readers.”

Initially, the op-ed was published by eight Louisiana newspapers owned by USA Today without any requests to Kennedy for edits. It was then removed, with no opportunity for Kennedy to make changes, and without his knowledge. After discovering it had been removed, Kennedy’s team attempted to understand why the article had been deleted. 

Emails and phone calls show that the process behind the removal was anything but transparent.  

Kennedy’s team was first told that the op-ed had been removed because it hadn’t included any links to citations despite the fact that the version submitted by Kennedy had over a dozen citations. 

After corresponding with one local reporter who they had submitted the op-ed to the paper through, a spokesperson made contact with Misty Castile, the editor of the Shreveport Times and four other Gannett papers. The spokesperson spoke with Castile twice on May 20, six days after the deletion of the article. 

In the first phone call, Castile told a Kennedy team member that the op-ed had been removed because it had no citations. She also said that a “process problem” was what led to the op-ed being pulled without Kennedy’s knowledge, according to a transcript of the call shared with The Daily Wire. 

In a second phone call, Castile added that there were concerns about language used in the op-ed, adding that she was waiting to hear from others about more specific problems. 

“You know, I do know there were some specific questions about language, and, and part of the reason that we’re talking to standards is I’m trying to get very specific information on what language they were discussing—if it was just that they didn’t see citations, and, so, without the citations it, it, it was, it looked worse on the face that it was—I’m waiting on answers,” she said. 

Later emails from Castile stated that Kennedy’s use of the terms “biological male,” and “biological female,” were “loaded terms” outside of the outlet’s editorial standards. The outlet also took issue with Kennedy saying that men competing against women in sports was similar to NBA star Zion Williamson playing against middle school boys.

Two newspapers that ran the article, including the Houma Today and the Daily Advertiser, both still have the op-ed promoted on their X pages though the links to the article go to the editorial standards explanation.  

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