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New Style Guide Helps Journalists Cover Diversity Topics More Accurately

By / May 9, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

In the face of race, LGBT, and religious issues that have arisen in the last several years, a new Diversity Style Guide was released to help journalists cover these subjects more precisely and sensitively.

The Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism (CIIJ) at San Francisco State University, with help from The Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, released an updated Diversity Style Guide to help journalists writing about diverse subjects and issues.

“We’re glad to see this project come to fruition,” Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President Robert Leger said in a statement. “Our grants are intended to improve journalism through training or by improving the tools reporters and editors have at their fingertips. The Diversity Style Guide helps ensure accurate and respectful language. It’s a great addition.”

Covering more than 700 diversity-related terms, the guide aims to ensure accuracy in journalism in a multicultural society. While CIIJ released a diversity guide in the 1990s that covered ethnicity and disability, it had not been updated since 2002. The new guide expands coverage to include immigration, sexuality and gender identity, drugs and alcohol, religion, and geography, in addition to race, ethnicity, and disability.

“There isn’t necessarily one definition for any of these words, but what it does is it gets journalists and other media writers to think about the words that they use, to understand them, and to understand the power the words have,” said Rachele Kanigel, the guide’s editor and journalism professor at San Francisco State University.

The resource is meant to be the go-to source when checking terms during the writing process because it consolidates guidelines from 20 different sources like the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Center on Disability and Journalism, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, and the Religion Newswriters Association, among others.

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

Kanigel decided to work on updating the guide during her time as interim CIIJ director. Since the last update, she noted that there have been large changes in news reporting on gender identity—introducing terms like cisgender and genderqueer—religion with regards to Muslims and Sikhs, and immigration in terms of illegal immigration. “All of these of terms have really come into the lexicon over the last 10 or 15 years,” she said.

The free guide is online, making it easy for Kanigel to consistently update and for journalists to access. It connects to the guides used to create it and will also be promoted by those sources.

“We hope this will be a great and easy-to-use resource for journalists and others to help them better understand the many types of diversity in our communities and to help ensure we’re accurately describing them in our coverage,” SPJ Diversity Committee Chair April Bethea said in the release.

Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. More »

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