Students, Fringe performers and journalists support Trans Writers Union's boycott of The Irish Times
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In August, the editorial team at Trinity News, a student newspaper at Trinity College Dublin, announced that they had formally severed the paper's almost decade long commercial partnership with The Irish Times in reaction to the national newspaper's alleged consistent transphobic editorial output.
Since the 2012/2013 academic year, the student newspaper's print edition had been produced at The Irish Times CityWest print facility in an agreement that made the paper upwards of the €10,000 a year.
Through this partnership, Trinity News also featured print advertisements for The Irish Times in exchange for a reduction in printing costs, as well as occasional online advertisements, explained Trinity News editor Jack Kennedy, speaking to LADBible around the time of the split.
After coming to an agreement with an alternative printing service, the editor took to Twitter to announce the team's decision to end this partnership due to the newspaper's 'increasingly outspoken editorial support for transphobia'.
In the last year The Irish Times has faced criticism for publishing a number of opinion pieces and letters to the editor that many readers felt pushed a decidedly anti-trans sentiment.
.@Trinity_News has officially ended our nine-year commercial partnership with the Irish Times.
They will no longer produce our print edition and we will no longer feature their advertising.
- Jack Kennedy (@kackjennedy) August 13, 2021
One such opinion piece published on August 9 with the headline 'Bill to ban conversion therapy poses problems for therapists' was met with particular dismay on Twitter as the piece appears to advocate for the abhorrent, inhumane and widely disregarded practice of conversion therapy.
In parallel to this, there had been a perceived lack of balance in the form of opposing opinion pieces or editorial content published that argues in favour of trans rights during the same period of time.
"This is a marked editorial pattern; they have made the decision to make their opinion pages near-exclusively hostile to trans rights. Hence our decision," wrote Kennedy on August 13.
The schism was an interesting move for a student newspaper to make against the national paper of record, a David vs Goliath of sorts, one that was met with almost resounding praise on Twitter with many users commending the team of student journalists for taking a stand in support of its trans readers.
"We think we have a responsibility to the Trinity community, including trans students, and we'd be abrogating that responsibility if we didn't take this, comparatively minor, step," Kennedy told us.
"I don't think we'd feel comfortable financially supporting or directing students to the kind of coverage they're engaging in."
Eleven weeks boycotting the Irish Times! https://t.co/42sVHDipgv- trans writers union (@transwritersu) November 4, 2021
After announcing the end of its partnership with The Irish Times, the student newspaper linked its efforts to a broader campaign, led by the Trans Writers' Union, to boycott the newspaper until it withdraws and apologises for the aforementioned piece on conversion therapy.
The crux of the union's campaign is a petition which also demands the paper 'take practical, committed steps to adopting a trans-inclusive editorial line'. At the time of writing, the petition currently has 1,531 signatures.
In the months following Trinity News' support of the boycott, many other figures have followed suit.
In September, a slew of writers, performers and producers participating in the Dublin Fringe Festival announced they would not be welcoming press from the newspaper, or judges from The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards, to review their shows in an act of solidarity with the union.
More recently Louise Bruton, a long-time music reviewer and contributor to The Irish Times, announced she would no longer be writing for the publication until its issues with the Trans Writers Union were resolved.
The album review I have in the Irish Times tomorrow will be my last contribution to the paper until issues are resolved with the Trans Writers' Union. Huge respect to my colleagues and editors for being so understanding but I need to demonstrate solidarity.
- Louise Bruton (@luberachi) November 4, 2021
"Huge respect to my colleagues and editors for being so understanding but I need to demonstrate solidarity," Bruton wrote on Twitter.
Student unions for Dublin City University, University College Dublin, NUI Galway and the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology have also pledged their support for the boycott, in some cases working with commercial entities on campus to no longer stock the newspaper during the boycott.
In spite of the visceral reaction from student journalists and student unions around the country, at the start of the new academic year in September the newspaper launched a digital advertising campaign aimed directly at students using the slogan 'Expect opinions that may set you off' to entice new subscribers in university.
The slogan is a notable departure from previous communications from the newspaper which put an emphasis on its commitment to prioritising truthful, fact-based journalism over divisive opinions.
I see Irish Times have admitted to abandoning 'Truth Matters' pic.twitter.com/1rttkImMyF
- steve white (@lostexpectation) November 3, 2021
Perhaps in a bid to offer a more balanced view, in September the paper published a piece by its regular columnist and What A Complete Aisling author Emer McLysaght headlined: 'When will we just leave trans people to get on with their lives?'
In the column McLysaght expressed that she is 'baffled by those who engage in casual transphobia' and argued for further investment into effective care and treatments for trans people in Ireland.
Speaking on the progress of the boycott thus far, a spokesperson for the Trans Writers Union told us: "We are both pleased and disappointed in how the boycott has progressed so far.
"Pleased in that we have had incredibly meaningful and practical support from areas we did not anticipate, such as the student unions and Fringe performers, and this has already determined a more positive, reinforced course of action for future organising," they explained.
"We are disappointed because we have not received this same support from the industry in which we work, the writing industry. This may be a reason as to why the boycott is not getting adequate coverage," they went on to say. "A boycott of a national paper should be acknowledged."
In spite of what they feel is a lack of support from their industry peers, the union remains optimistic about what the boycott can achieve. "More widely, the boycott is a positive force in itself, and a real sign that the trans communities have far more allies than we previously imagined. We are excited to move forward and work together towards a wider liberation."
The Irish Times has not, to date, commented on the boycott or the backlash to the transphobic sentiment observed in its editorial coverage.
Featured Image Credit: Cian Ginty on Flickr