Mark Saxenmeyer is the Executive Director of The Reporters Inc. You can read more about him on our Team page.

News You Can’t Use

The Unwatchable State of Local Television News

May 2022


Do you watch TV news? The local stations? Do you tune in for the weather and the headlines in your area? Do you have a favorite channel and favorite anchor? I ask these questions as if it’s 1995, when it seemed everybody had definitive preferences. But in 2022, when news is available 24/7 at our fingertips, catching “Live at Five” and relying on “Coverage You Can Count On” aren’t “Must-See-TV” for Americans glued instead to their phones and iPads.

Joel Cheatwood, the co-founder and managing partner at Cheatwood Media Group, a media consulting firm that specializes in everything from program creation and development to talent recruitment and marketing strategy, asked if I’d be willing to answer a few questions about the state of local TV news. Seeing as I worked as a TV news reporter for about 25 years (between 1987 and 2013, in five different cities, for CBS, ABC and FOX affiliates), I responded, “Of course, I’d be happy to! But beware, my take on local news isn’t particularly bright or cheery.”

Undeterred, Cheatwood published my answers—yet prefaced them by writing, “As you’ll see below, Mark’s take on the world we live and work in is unabashed and refreshingly blunt.”

Yep, that’s me.

Here’s what he asked me, and here’s what I said:


With Honor and Integrity

Heartfelt Stories from Transgender Troops Striving to Serve as Their Authentic Selves

May 2022

Editor’s Note: The Reporters Inc. is pleased to present this exclusive excerpt from the new book With Honor and Integrity: Transgender Troops in Their Own Words by Máel Embser-Herbert and Bree Fram. But first, Embser-Herbert, a Professor of Social Justice and Social Change at Hamline University (in St. Paul, Minnesota) and a veteran of the U.S. Army, explains how the book came to be. 


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In October 2017, I had the good fortune of attending a Minnesota-based film festival, Gender Reel. On the program were several short films about transgender military service, as well as remarks by Tarrence Robertson-Bayless, then serving as an openly transgender member of the Minnesota National Guard.

The Obama Administration had, in June 2016, announced a policy that would permit trans people to serve openly in the U.S. military. Then, in July 2017, President Trump announced his intent to reverse that policy, via Twitter. Chaos ensued with service members not knowing if a presidential tweet was policy, if they still had their jobs, and so on.

During the 13 months between the inclusive service announcement and Trump’s tweet, service members had started to come out as transgender, with many beginning social, legal, and/or medical transitions.

As I watched the films and listened to Robertson-Bayless at Gender Reel, I found myself wondering how trans service members were navigating this shifting, and potentially hostile, terrain. With an eye to answering this question, at least in part, I decided to see if there were trans service members who might be willing to talk with me.

Ultimately, I conducted in-depth interviews with 10 such individuals, publishing the results in an academic journal. I wanted to do more, but I didn’t really want to approach this subject within the parameters of social scientific research. Ultimately I wondered, “Would trans service members consider crafting essays about their own experiences?”

In December 2018, I reached out to Bree Fram (a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Space Force and the president of SPARTA, a transgender military advocacy organization), one of the people I had interviewed, asking if she might be interested in putting together such a book. Together we embarked on an almost-three year journey that resulted in With Honor and Integrity: Transgender Troops in Their Own Words.