Columbia Journalism Review Q&A: Melissa Gira Grant on how sex workers changed the Stormy Daniels, SESTA narratives

It’s remarkable that the shift in coverage occured absent institutionalization in media.

Right. You wouldn’t do a story about a transgender woman murdered in an act of anti-trans violence without reaching out to one of the national organizations that does work to end that violence. Or, I hope that you wouldn’t. Some reporters might even include perspectives from trans people in their community. We understand it’s our responsibility as journalists. But when it comes to sex workers, there isn’t that institutional knowledge or mandate, or even awareness. And there’s no GLAAD for sex workers, or an organization with similar resources that would function as an easily available source for reporters.

There are organizations worldwide working for the rights of sex workers, but this is a very deinstitutionalized movement in the United States. Part of that is because sex work is criminalized and part of that is because it’s so deeply stigmatized. As few resources as there are for women’s rights organizations or LGBT rights organizations, there’s even less for sex workers. As a result, most of these organizations, those run by sex workers, don’t have someone consistently at a phone waiting for reporters’ calls, let alone sending out press releases. The same constraints under which the movement and individual sex workers operate, those also necessitate building personal relationships with trusted reporters.

Q&A: Melissa Gira Grant on how sex workers changed the Stormy Daniels, SESTA narratives” in Columbia Journalism Review