CIIJ releases journalistic style guide for writing about diversity

bySam Berkhead
May 10, 2016 in Specialized Topics

When writing about diverse communities, how can journalists be sure they’re using the correct terminology and language to define such communities? How can we respectfully and accurately write about different races, sexualities, religions and disabilities while reporting the news?

The Diversity Style Guide, a free resource from the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism (CIIJ) at San Francisco State University, aims to answer these questions, allowing journalists to authoritatively write about today’s multifaceted, multicultural society.

The guide contains more than 700 entries that cover race and ethnicity, disability, religion, gender and sexuality and more. The need for journalists to be accurate while covering these topics is apparent no matter where one is in the world, explained Rachele Kanigel, associate professor of journalism at San Francisco State University and the guide’s editor.

“New terms like cisgender, Black Twitter and genderqueer have come into the cultural vocabulary, but journalists don’t always know how to use these terms correctly,” she said. “This guide aims to inform media professionals so they can write responsibly and accurately about different people and communities.”

In many cases, there is no one right answer to questions of how to correctly report on a community — for example, there is a wide variety of opinion on which pronouns to use when referring to individuals who identify as neither male nor female. In cases like these, the guide seeks to outline the current discussion, bringing in expert opinions to offer context and guidance.

It sources its entries from more than 20 topic-specific style guides, including the Asian American Journalists Association, GLAAD, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Center on Disability and Journalism and the Religion Newswriters Association. The guide also links to these guides for further reading.

Kanigel said the guide isn’t about political correctness — it’s about accuracy.

“A lot of media professionals use terms incorrectly or don’t understand the nuances and deeper meanings of words,” she said. “This guide provides information and context so they can write not just with sensitivity, but with authority.”

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via berisha olivier.