Bil Browning

Kudos to the Indy Star's Francesca Jarosz

Filed By Bil Browning | January 04, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Francesca Jarosz, Indianapolis Star, Indy Star, Michael Hunt, Taysia Elzy, trans issues, transgender

Indianapolis Star reporter Francesca Jarosz is a professional journalist. I say this, not because she works for the Indy Star, but because unlike every other Indianapolis media source, Jarosz reached out to ask how the Star could report on the double homicide of transwoman Taysia Elzy and her boyfriend.

It isn't often that I get to write a piece that praises Indianapolis media for their respect and dedication to LGBT issues. The Star, owned by former Republican Vice-President Dan Quayle's family until the recent buyout by Gannett, has never been known for their liberal bent. After reading my original post on the slayings, Francesca called to ask some questions for a story about the murders.

As we chatted, both on and off the record, it because clear that trans issues weren't something Francesca knew how to address in the newspaper. One thing stood out though: her willingness to learn and be respectful. Our conversation spurred my post "The Media, the Legislature and the Police Are Guilty Too"; after all, if Francesca was willing to learn and improve, why wasn't the other media outlets?

The result will make your proud of her too.

After Christopher Conwell was arrested for the crime, Francesca and I spoke again as background for this article. Emphasis mine:

Taysia Elzy and Michael Hunt had offered their Northside house as a refuge for an acquaintance from Fort Wayne who was having problems at home.

Police arrested that acquaintance, Christopher L. Conwell, 20, on Wednesday in the deaths of Elzy, 34, and Hunt, 22.

The two were found dead Dec. 26 at the house they shared in the 5800 block of Rosslyn Avenue in Broad Ripple. They were killed Christmas Day, said Sgt. Matthew Mount, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Police confirmed Wednesday that the victims died of gunshot wounds.
Elzy, whose given first name was Avery, was transgender and identified as female but had not undergone gender reassignment surgery, Theresa Elzy said.

She added that Elzy "was an outgoing, happy person who helped anybody that she could."
Theresa Elzy said she didn't suspect Taysia was targeted because of gender identity, but the family was sometimes concerned about Taysia's well-being.

"Tay lets everybody know upfront from the beginning that she was a transgender," Theresa Elzy said. "We were more worried (about her safety) than she was."

Compare this with ABC's WRTV-6 coverage:

Police arrested a man Wednesday in connection with the deaths of two men in a Broad Ripple home on the day after Christmas.
Avery Elzy, 34, and Michael Hunt, 22, were found dead in the home in the 5800 block of Rosslyn Avenue on Dec. 26.

Or NBC's WTHR-13 coverage:

Christopher Conwell, 20, of Fort Wayne, was arrested Wednesday morning in Fort Wayne. He was transported back to Indianapolis Wednesday afternoon, where he confessed to Indianapolis Metro Police Detectives that he killed Avery Elzy and Michael Hunt in the early morning hours of December 26th at the couple's house at 5853 Rosslyn Avenue.

Or CBS's WISH-TV 8 coverage:

Conwell faces charges in the deaths of Avery Elzy and Michael Hunt. Police found their bodies inside their home in the 5800 block of Rosslyn Avenue on December 25.

Or FOX-59's coverage:

Police say 20-year-old Christopher Conwell was arrested in Fort Wayne for the murders of Avery Elzy and Michael Hunt. The pair were found the day after Christmas at their home in the 5800 block of Rosslyn.

I should note: Other than ABC's WRTV coverage which referred to the victims as "two men," the other stations referred to "victims" or "people." While all of them used Taysia's male name, only WRTV was deliberately insulting by calling Taysia a male. Hopefully, the other stations took notice of the LGBT community's outrage over the disrespect to Taysia Elzy's gender identity and muddled through the name issue. None of the TV reporters contacted me, so I couldn't say with certainty.

I'd encourage our readers to contact Francesca and thank her for taking the initiative to research how to be respectful to Taysia's memory. As much as we complain about shoddy reporting like the Indianapolis TV stations, we should also compliment reporters who do a good job.

Francesca Jarosz didn't just write a good article; she did a great job.

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The writing was surprisingly good for the Indy Star, a paper that has a very bad history, but those damned mug shots are still there on the website. One must wonder why they didn't obtain proper photos of the victims from their family.

I'm still rooting for Conwell's conviction on the highest possible charges, and for nothing less than life without parole, or death for what he has done.

Bless Francesca, she did a great piece, but those comments over there - they made my stomach churn. The readers seem truly sick.

The television station comments were - believe it or not - worse on some of their reports. Indy Star readers/commenters are some of the most homophobic and redneck around. Welcome to Indiana; we live it daily. :(

But now you understand why accurate reporting is such a big deal here, eh?

Two years ago, Francesca Jarosz was a Medill School of Journalism student, writing for the Daily Northwestern, the campus newspaper. This suggests that she is at the start of her journalistic career.

The Indianapolis Star is lucky to have such a thorough and thoughtful reporter working for them. I hope they appreciate that.

That's awesome! By teaching her at the start of her career, she'll carry the knowledge forward! Thanks for the info. I hope you e-mailed her a nice note.

I did indeed. And I hope others will, too.

But now you understand why accurate reporting is such a big deal here, eh?

It's a issue that I've heard since I was a child.

Now if they'll only get rid of those cursed mugshots everything will be copacetic.