Business Insider has put in place new guidelines for opinion pieces exploring “sensitive topics,” after removing an article that defended Scarlett Johansson for accepting a film role as a transgender man.
The new rules, outlined in an email obtained by CNN, state “culturally sensitive columns, analysis, and opinion pieces” which cover topics such as “marginalised communities, race, or LGBTQ+ issues” should be reviewed by the writer’s editor and one of the website’s executive editors or the editor-in-chief.
Business Insider’s global editor-in-chief Nicholas Carson wrote: “Ultimately, it is the first editor’s responsibility to flag culturally sensitive stories.
“It may be hard to tell which are and which are not. The policy is to err on the safe side, even if it slows us down.
“We should be as careful about culturally sensitive pieces as we are legally sensitive pieces, and this policy reflects that.”
The guidelines were issued after the website published an opinion piece, written by columnist Daniella Greenbaum, which defended actress Johansson’s role as a transgender man in the upcoming film Rub and Tug.
In the article, Greenbaum wrote that Johansson was the “latest target of the social-justice warrior mob” and said it was “hard to imagine people having the same reaction in other scenarios” such as “a rich actor being hired to play a poor person.”
The piece has now been deleted and a note below the headline reads: “Business Insider removed the column because, upon further review, we decided it did not meet our editorial standards.”
Business Insider’s senior vice president of communications Mario Ruiz told CNN that Greenbaum “stands by her piece and disagrees with the decision to take it down.”
Along with the new guidelines, Carlson added that the new rules do “not mean our argument-writers should not take big swings, or that they must have opinions shared by everyone in our newsroom.”
He also said there should be no “partisan name-calling” referring to the “social justice warriors” term used by Greenbaum.
Trace Lysette, a trans woman known for her role in Amazon’s Transparent, wrote on Twitter: “Oh word?? So you can continue to play us but we can’t play y’all?”
“I wouldn’t be as upset if I was getting in the same rooms as Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett for cis roles, but we know that’s not the case. A mess.”
She also added: “And not only do you play us and steal our narrative and our opportunity but you pat yourselves on the back with trophies and accolades for mimicking what we have lived… So twisted. I’m so done…”