County Fair

Why Ronan Farrow Daily Was The Gold Standard For Covering Transgender Issues

February 20, 2015 2:37 pm ET by Carlos Maza

With the cancellation of Ronan Farrow Daily, MSNBC is losing a show that for months represented the gold standard in cable news coverage of transgender issues.

On February 19, MSNBC announced that it was cancelling Ronan Farrow Daily, which has occupied the network’s 1 pm slot since premiering in February 2014. The show, along with The Reid Report, will be replacedby a two-hour block of news programming hosted by Thomas Roberts, while host Ronan Farrow will go on to launch “a new series of primetime specials.”

For nearly a year, Ronan Farrow Daily stood out for its remarkable coverage of transgender stories and issues. Farrow worked to bring national attention to the fight for transgender equality, which he called a “nascent enough rights movement that you can see change on almost a daily basis.” And he did it by inviting actual transgender people to discuss issues facing their community -- a practice that even many progressive news commentators have been hesitant to adopt.

In May, Farrow earned praise for a segment debunking conservative “scare tactics” about Maryland’s transgender-inclusive non-discrimination law. He, along with transgender community activist Mel Wymore, challenged the thoroughly-debunked claim that sexual predators would use such laws to sneak into women’s restrooms, rightly calling it a “myth.”

That same month, he led a segment with GLAAD’s Tiq Milan discussing the transgender “tipping point,” referencing TIME’s historic decision to feature transgender actress Laverne Cox on its cover. He also hosted a segment discussing the military’s ban on transgender service members, speaking with an actual transgender veteran who was discharged because of the ban.

In August, Farrow highlighted the issue of the detention of transgender immigrants, asking Milan “what does this story reveal about just how vulnerable sexual minorities in particular can be in the immigration system?”

And last week, Farrow invited transgender veteran Allyson Robinson to discuss the military’s decision to provide hormone therapy for Private Chelsea Manning in federal prison.

But Farrow’s most significant contribution to national awareness of transgender issues came in January, after the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, the transgender Ohio teenager who took her own life after facing an unaccepting family that put her through religious therapy. In response to Alcorn’s death, Farrow devoted an entire week to spotlighting transgender issues. Farrow also issued a “Call to Action” to his fans, asking them to urge Smith College in Massachusetts to ease its eligibility requirements for transgender students. The show’s unprecedented focus on transgender issues earned Ronan Farrow Daily a nomination for a GLAAD Media Award.

It remains to be seen if Farrow’s dedication to covering oft-overlooked transgender stories, and his willingness to allow actual transgender people speak for themselves, will be replicated. Thomas Roberts, Farrow’s replacement, has stated that he is “happy to see more trans representation across the board.” And MSNBC has shown interest in elevating transgender voices, giving prominent activist Janet Mock her own show, “So Popular!,” on its digital initiative Shift. But whatever comes of MSNBC’s afternoon programming, LGBT viewers will likely remember Farrow’s commitment to treating the transgender community with understanding, compassion, and truly groundbreaking respect.


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