When an LGB or T person dies, how should the media report that death? From the front page to the obituary page, how to maintain the integrity of both a publication of record and the lives they record is becoming an increasingly contentious field of discussion. Should writers use someone’s “dead name”? What if that was still their legal name? And beyond just transgender identities, how should the media respect people who lived in the closet their whole life as LGB, yet never acknowledged it in public? From Liz Smith to James Beard to the transgender woman next door — their lives and deaths spark conversations about how media should respect who they were. On this panel, former and current obituary writers, as well as transgender members of the media, will try to find answers together.
Panelists: Koa Beck, Adam Bernstein, Dawn Ennis, Bethany Grace Howe, Meredith Morgoch
KOA BECK’s literary criticism and reporting on gender, LGBTQ rights, culture and race have appeared in TheAtlantic.com, The New York Observer, TheGuardian.com, Esquire.com, Vogue.com, MarieClaire.com among others. Her short stories have been published in Slice, Kalyani Magazine and Apogee Journal. Beck has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and serves on the board of directors of Nat.Brut, an art and literary magazine. She is the former executive editor of Vogue.com and the former senior features editor at MarieClaire.com. Beck is the editor-in-chief of Jezebel and a contributor to WNYC’s The Takeaway.
ADAM BERNSTEIN has spent his career putting the “post” in The Washington Post, first as an obituary writer and then as editor. The American Society of Newspaper Editors recognized Bernstein’s ability to exhume “the small details and anecdotes that get at the essence of the person” and to write stories that are “complex yet stylish.” He is featured in Marilyn Johnson’s book about the obit-writing craft, “The Dead Beat.” Among the obituaries Bernstein has written, his favorites are those of Edward von Kloberg III, the lobbyist for dictators and despots and who embraced the slogan “shame is for sissies”; and the filmmaker Billy Wilder, who wooed his future wife with the line, “I’d worship the ground you walked on, if only you lived in a better neighborhood.”
DAWN ENNIS is an award-winning journalist, a blogger at lifeafterdawn.com, HuffPost and Medium, and hosts a talk show on YouTube: “RiseUP With Dawn Ennis.” In June, she was honored by the organizers of the 2018 New York City Pride March as a community hero, standing alongside Emma Gonzalez, Tiq Milan and icons from the Stonewall Riots on the lead float. Ennis was America’s first transgender journalist in a TV network newsroom when she came out five years ago. Since then, she’s spoken as an advocate for transgender rights at national media, religious and civil rights conventions, as well as on TV and on NPR. She now reports for NBC News, The Daily Beast, The Advocate, NewNowNext, INTO, GO Magazine and Outsports. In addition, she was the assistant editor at LGBTQ Nation and the news editor at The Advocate, serving in both positions as the first out transgender editor on staff. Before moving to online journalism, she was a network news writer, producer and assignment editor as well as an executive producer at TV stations across the country. She got her start in New York City, landing a job at CNN in her sophomore year of college. Ennis is one of the founders of New York 1 News, 28 Tampa Bay News and Verizon Fios1 News. She also worked at CBS, NBC, ABC News and Politico, where she was an executive producer during the 2008 election. She is also a widow who does the job of mom for three children who call her “Dad.” Ennis and her family reside in Connecticut.
BETHANY GRACE HOWE is a former high school teacher, hotel manager, performer and media manager for Disney on Ice, and Major League Baseball mascot. In 2002, Howe returned to school at the University of Missouri, where she served as an adjunct professor as well as a newspaper editor while pursuing her master’s degree. She also won several awards for narrative and feature writing. Following graduation, Howe went into small-town journalism where she worked as a reporter and then humor columnist in Lincoln County, Oregon. She later switched her journalism pursuits from writing to teaching when she became a middle and high school journalism, English and social studies teacher. Currently, Howe is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oregon, graduating with her Ph.D. in June 2019. Currently working as a researcher for the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation, she also freelances for local publications as well as sporadically blogs on LGBTQ issues on her website, TransDUCKtion.weebly.com. She is also the founding member and president of the University of Oregon chapter of NLGJA, as well as creator and co-publisher of “Melody’s Stories: The Enduring Identity Project.”
MEREDITH MORGOCH, a second-year mass media studies Ph.D. student at the University of Oregon, earned her bachelor’s in public relations from Appalachian State University and her master’s in communication, technology and society from Clemson University. Her master’s thesis focused on the strategic messages employed by a Facebook community during a natural disaster, and she is interested in pursuing further research related to digital strategic communication in the health realm. She is a member of the University of Oregon chapter of the NLGJA, along with serving as co-executive publisher of “Melody’s Stories: The Enduring Identity Project.”