Diversity Style Guide to help journalists write in complex, multicultural society

The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, along with the Society of Professional Journalists and The Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism announce a new Diversity Style Guide to help journalists and other media professionals write with accuracy and authority about a complex, multicultural society.

Diversity signThe guide offers definitions and guidance on more than 700 terms related to race and ethnicity, disability, religion, gender and sexuality, mental health and drugs and alcohol – from “A.D.” and “abaya” to “Yonsei” and “Zionist.” The Diversity Style Guide draws from more than 20 ethnic-themed and topic-specific style guides, bringing this information together in one handy place.

“We’re glad to see this project come to fruition,” says Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President Robert Leger. “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.”

The guide greatly expands and updates an earlier guide developed by CIIJ’s Newswatch program in the 1990s and last updated in 2002.

Rachele Kanigel mug

Rachel Kanigel

“A lot has changed since then,” said Rachele Kanigel, associate professor of journalism at San Francisco State University and editor of the new guide. “New terms like cisgender, Black Twitter andgenderqueer have come into the cultural vocabulary, but journalists don’t always know how to use these terms correctly. This guide aims to inform media professionals so they can write responsibly and accurately about different people and communities.”

The guide addresses thorny questions, such as whether the words Black and White should be capitalized when referring to race and which pronouns to use for people who don’t identify as male or female.

“There’s no one right answer to these questions but we try to lay out the discussion and tap experts in the field who have given these issues hard thought,” Kanigel said. “Producing a guide like this truly takes a village.”

Kanigel noted this guide is not about political correctness. “It’s about accuracy,” she said.“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.”

Most of the terms in The Diversity Style Guide come, with permission, from media guides produced by the Asian American Journalists Association, Columbia Aging Center, Gender Spectrum, GLAAD, theNational Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, theNational Center on Disability and Journalism, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, the Religion Newswriters Association, and TEAM Up (Tools for Entertainment and Media). The Diversity Style Guide also draws from the Michigan State University School of Journalism’s “100 Questions and Answers” cultural competence series.

April Bethea mug

April Bethea

“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,” says SPJ Diversity Committee Chair April Bethea.

Funding was also provided by the College of Liberal and Creative Arts at San Francisco State University.

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