Like the rest of the media world, the Washington Post is grappling with how to refer to Chelsea Manning, the army private convicted of leaking military secrets who announced yesterday that she will no longer use the first name Bradley and plans to live as a woman. Two versions of today’s Post may have shed some light on the paper’s struggle with the issue.
The Post‘s story on Manning’s announcement appeared on the front page of the paper. But the Post printed at least two versions of the paper with different headlines, one of which referred to Manning as “he.”
The first headline, a Post spokeswoman confirmed, contains no gender-identifying pronouns and reads “Manning to live as woman in prison.”
The later version of the headline on the same story: “Manning says he will live as a woman.”
Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti did not give a reason for the headline swap, but writes in an email that “this was a refinement for a later edition, which is a standard practice.”
The Post said Thursday it would use “he” to describe Manning “for the time being.” However, since yesterday much of its coverage of Manning has stuck to gender-neutral descriptors, like “the former intelligence analyst.”
Another Post story covered how media organizations have referred to Manning since yesterday’s announcement. While some news organizations are now referring to Manning using the pronoun “she”—-as Manning requested in her announcement—-others, including the New York Times, have stuck with “he.”
“This is an ongoing story, and we will reevaluate as it develops further,” Post Managing Editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, who oversees copy editors, told the paper’s Paul Farhi. “We based this decision on numerous factors, including that the name Bradley Manning has a strong identification for our readers because he is a very visible public figure.”
In case any readers are wondering, Washington City Paper is following its style guidelines on coverage of transgender individuals, and is now referring to Manning using the feminine pronoun.
Top photo by Darrow Montgomery