Editor’s Note: On STLPR’s coverage of proposals and rules affecting the lives of transgender people in Missouri
When I entered the newsroom on March 13 as news director, reporting on the treatment of transgender people was underway. The coverage plan set by then-Interim Executive Editor Brian Heffernan aimed to put legislative proposals in Missouri within the wider context of efforts to restrict care for transgender people happening in other Republican-led states.
The newsroom strived to do so without giving credence to measures or political rhetoric that lacked merit and sought to incite people. I wanted to support the reporting the newsroom was already doing while still navigating daily coverage.
Our reporting on transgender issues grew out of allegations a former Washington University Pediatric Transgender Center employee filed in an affidavit on Feb. 7 alleging the center treated minors without properly evaluating their mental health needs before receiving gender-affirming care. A series of investigations into the center and its practices by Missouri’s top Republicans followed those allegations.
From the beginning of the legislative session, one of the legislature’s priorities had become to restrict the kind of gender-affirming care transgender people in the state could receive. Both chambers introduced measures to limit youth from receiving puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and gender reassignment surgeries. Another pair of bills proposed restricting transgender people from playing sports on teams according to their gender identity.
St. Louis Public Radio’s editors and reporters followed each new development as it unfolded. Our staff covered Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s temporary emergency regulations on what care transgender youth and adults could receive. Later, we covered St. Louis County judge’s decision to temporarily block those rules and the attorney general’s withdrawal of those same regulations.
We covered the alarmed responses of medical clinics that rushed to provide health care to transgender people under a changing litany of rules. We also reported reactions from lawmakers as bills to ban transgender care advanced in the legislature.
The newsroom also sought to highlight the people most affected by these measures and rules. Reporters and producers on St. Louis on the Air highlighted the stories of adults, parents and their kids whose lives would drastically change because of these bans and were concerned about what the future might hold.
Our newsroom has heard from members of our audience who found our coverage comprehensive and engaging and from others who found our reporting on the plight of transgender people excessive — questioning whether our attention to transgender issues came at the expense of other coverage. It has not.
Over recent months, the station’s reporters covered the state’s budget proposal, measures that would affect teachers and schools, efforts to block foreign ownership of farmland, library funding, state control of St. Louis’ police department, and other top legislative issues. The politics team also broke news of former St. Louis Prosecutor Kim Garnder’s resignation and reported follow-up coverage that brought context. Our digital team also worked with the Midwest Newsroom on an investigation uncovering the poor practices of a real estate company renting homes mostly in north St. Louis.
We’ve reported stories on the state of daycares and early education, St. Louis’ growing tech scene, local environmental issues, including efforts to resolve flooding in Cohokia Heights. Our staff also has reported on conditions for the those experiencing homelessness downtown, and gun violence concerns, including a study on gun violence victims in St. Louis and a city measure to limit the open carry of firearms amid news of young people carrying guns on St. Louis streets.
Reporters also produced joyful and informative stories about a hometown musician who showcased his talent on “The Voice,” a robot delivering meals on a college campus in Rolla, visitors to the historic New Philadelphia, and a local comedian who makes people laugh on social media by poking fun at his regional accent.
As I settle into my new role as news director, I believe our newsroom must continue to hold powerful people and institutions accountable for their actions and the policies they enact. We’ll also elevate the voices of people affected by the actions of those powerful people and institutions — all while keeping up with the daily happenings in our region.
The newsroom did this while covering a myriad of stories about transgender people and responses from public officials and we’ll continue to implement a similar approach on other newsworthy local, regional, and statewide issues.