NBC Philadelphia demonstrated a number of best practices in its coverage of the recent murder of a transgender woman of color, avoiding the stigmatizing tropes that often dominate reports on transgender victims of violence.
Maya Young, a 25-year-old transgender woman of color, was stabbed to death in Philadelphia on February 21. Among media outlets covering the story was Philly.com, which included Maya's previous name, violating established journalistic standards. The article also needlessly included her criminal history.
In contrast, NBC Philadelphia did an exemplary job covering Maya's story in both its TV report and accompanying text. The reports contextualized Maya's homicide as part of an escalating trend of violence against and murders of transgender people, especially trans people of color. On air, local correspondent Randy Gyllenhaal highlighted the systemic discrimination transgender people face in housing and employment, which contributes to high rates of homelessness, sex work, and economic insecurity in the community. His report included comments from city officials who condemned the crime and it was centered on the voices of transgender people and advocates, including a friend of Maya's.
As the transgender community continues to gain visibility, many journalists will need to aspire to higher ethical standards to accurately and responsibly report on transgender people in life and in death. NBC Philadelphia's report should serve as a model for media outlets and reporters moving forward.