From: Chris Rogers, Winona Post editor
First of all, I want to thank Wes for writing (see above letter). Reader feedback helps us improve. In this situation, our choice to use the singular “they” has nothing to do with nonbinary gender identities. Though, for the record, transgender people matter, and if someone prefers the pronoun “they,” of course we’ll use it.
We used the singular “they” in this instance because we did not know the gender of the victim and because I believe that “he or she” is two words too long. The singular “they” is accepted by the industry-standard-setting Associated Press Stylebook, it reflects spoken English, and it’s shorter and less clunky than “he or she.” Many will disagree. I respect their opinions, and acknowledge that “they,” singular, has a downside.
The singular “they” needs to be used with caution and not in scenarios where there are multiple possible subjects, where it can be confused for a plural pronoun. In the situation Wes describes, it obviously was confusing, and we should have reworded the article.