By Mihaela Manova
n recent months, as advocacy towards a better future of equality skyrocketed, Instagram feeds exploded with links, pictures, and disgust towards the treatment of Black Americans in 2020, (the year of change in every way possible). While cheering on #BlackLivesMatter ( while of course donating/advocating/signing petitions) and the people involved in creating this new world, a topic within this movement has popped up repeatedly. And this topic is education. Education towards cultures, races, sexes, and especially the history of how some are born with privilege while others are not.
As an aspiring journalist who still has much to learn, I came across the Diversity Style Guide for journalists, an online dictionary with the intent to provide “accuracy, authority, and sensitivity” to complex topics that need to be covered. The themes included cover every parameter of race, sexuality, gender, immigration, etc. and are useful to journalists in being truthful and especially, cultured.
Here is what I learned.
“This is not a guide to being politically correct.”
What is The Diversity Style Guide?
To start off, this guide was developed as a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at the San Francisco State University. According to the website, it “brings together definitions and information from more than two dozen style guides, journalism organizations and other resources.” Historically, this resource was developed in the 1990s by CIIJ’s News Watch program which then paved the way for a newly updated one (this one).
Conglomerated into this one guide, its contents include terminology related to “race/ethnicity, disability, immigration, sexuality and gender identity, drugs and alcohol, and geography.” An exemplar here shows the structure of how the guide works, alongside a glossary for easy use.
While easy to use, the guide does have its disclaimer. “This is not a guide to being politically correct. Rather, it offers guidance, context and nuance for media professionals struggling to write about people who are different from themselves and communities different from their own.” In other words, one definition cannot portray and explain a complex topic, but the definition itself will offer guidance for those who are writing about it. The actual meanings and definitions of each term are prepared in a way that are taken directly from a credible source, linking those sources at the bottom of each entry’s definition.
Led by Rachele Kanigel, this free resource is managed and monitored by a team of professionals who help with the writing and editing of all definitions.
Why we need it today.
As of the past few weeks, people (both journalists and non-journalists) have scrambled to report on various news, most importantly the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the suppressed news stories that call justice for Elijah McClain and Breonna Taylor.
Posts were made for people to learn how to be proper allies, learn history and definitions of derogatory terms, to be told to stand up for Black Americans when you are in your place of privilege. Now, as a part of a needed, everlasting education on how we need to continue to stand together and fight for racial justice, we must open our minds and eyes to what is happening around us, even if it is not happening to us directly.
As an effort to continue the movement after the Instagram feeds turn back to selfies and beach photos, as journalists and people who provide commentary on the internet, we need to make an effort in understanding and spreading credible information pertaining to a person’s culture, race, sexuality, etc.
Good uses vs the bad
As a source like this can increase the right way to report people or events, there are two categories that companies, brands, or even publications fall under. Performative or genuine allyship to movements. Now, as this may seem more recent, a source like this online dictionary can define what Pride month is (for example), with then brands taking initiative to promote themselves in a genuine or fake manner.
Take another example, a social media source under the name of DietPrada, exposing industry titan Starbucks for promoting #BlackLivesMatter after banning employees for wearing anything in support of that movement. In turn, social media users condemned them for their wishy-washy behavior when concerning this serious movement. In the same post, DietPrada reports of past misdeeds that the company has been practicing in an addition to the breaking news.
Here are their posts:
From our own staff
Tying this back to our own local town, we as journalists need to practice education on behalf of the pieces that we write and especially about the events/people we portray. We have asked our Loveland Magazine Staff a couple questions about the use of this style guide and the need for better awareness on the internet.
David Miller, Editor in Chief, Loveland Magazine
Q: During your years in the publication, have you witnessed an evolution of more knowledge from writers (about sensitive topics) in the publication?
DM: My entrance probably came when my daughters were in high school and I realized I wanted them to have the same opportunities as men. I also specifically remember my younger daughter taking runs on the Loveland Bike Trail, knowing she probably should not be running alone and thinking “boys” at this age were safe. But why not girls”? It was those kinds of things, those common ordinary everyday pleasures that “girls” were deprived of.
I began asking myself and others, “Why do we call adult women, girls? Why do adult women call themselves, girls?”
Words are so very important. I’ve tried to remove the word “girl” from our pages as much as possible when we should be saying “women” or “young women”. It’s never been about being politically correct, but about opportunity and making our community in many ways, safer and not diminishing accomplishments and potential.
In our sports writing especially I am moving along slowly but surely to remove diminishing language. I bristle when I hear the term “Lady Tigers” but never “Gentlemen Tigers.” For instance, when referring to the sport of soccer, the mostly male dominated industry of sports writing whether it come from media sources or the male dominated league or conference leadership, we would see references to Loveland Tigers when referencing the men’s team, but Lady Tigers when referencing the women’s team. It seems diminishing.
We have changed the language to simply Women’s Soccer and Men’s Soccer. When receiving press releases about team up-dates, why are the men’s teams always listed first? We started being intentional and made sure we were mixing the order. If we would see an announcement about “Most Valuable Players Announced,” we have to be aware of the male dominated industry will invariably list the male recipient first.
Appropriate wording is that someone died by suicide. I have intentionally used phrases or language that might help lessen the stigma of mental illness.
There has been much discussion about whether the w in White and the b in Black should be capitalized. Actually that very discussion last month from a trusted colleague led me to the Diversity Style Guide from the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University. That is why I asked the staff at Loveland Magazine to review it for possible adoption by our newspaper.
One’s internal, deeply held sense of one’s gender is what we will respect. We will use gender-neutral pronouns. I have never shied away from asking the direct question about a person’s preference when the occasion or need arises.
“For transgender people, their own internal gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Most people have a gender identity of man or woman (or boy or girl). For some people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two choices. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others. See gender expression.” – The Diversity Style Guide
Here are two other things I have learned along my journey. The word Gypsy (sometimes capitalized as a proper noun when referring to the ethnic group and sometimes spelled Gipsy) has negative connotations and many Romani people see it as a racial slur. In general, it’s best to use Romani or Roma people when referring to the ethnic group unless people self-identify as Gypsies. The term gyp, which means to cheat or swindle, likely comes from Gypsy and is seen as a negative stereotype of Roma as swindlers and thieves and will not be used in Loveland Magazine.
The “R” word has long been banned from Loveland Magazine.
We will use and allow terms such as mentally disabled, intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled. Likewise, words like “Libtard” which is a blend of the word liberal and this slur will never be allowed in Loveland Magazine.
Cassie Mattia, Writer and Associate Editor
Q: With your experience in the world of journalism, does having knowledge of knowing terms that are specific to (gender, sexuality, race, etc), make a journalist different from the standard?
CM: In my personal experience as a journalist that has experienced this world on multiple platforms, I think having knowledge of what terms to use specifically in regards to gender, sexuality, and race is definitely an added bonus! I would say the standard for a journalist in this day and age is that they know and use the terms correctly. Quite often many journalists get scrutinized for not using the proper terms in regards to gender, sexuality, and race, but in my opinion, if they were never taught the correct terms how can they be held accountable for using the wrong language?
If the journalist is taught these correct terms earlier such as in high school, college, and post-college within their careers then I think we can hold that standard across the boards. I taught myself at a young age what the appropriate language to use is when speaking about gender, sexuality, and race, but if I hadn’t taught myself these things I may have at one time or another offended someone within my writing by accident.
In order to reach the standard of knowledge in regards to gender, sexuality, and race teachers, professors, and even parents need to start teaching the future journalists of the world early about the correct use of gender, sexuality, and race terms!
Often attention comes to celebrities and recent influencers whose dark pasts have been uncovered by various people. Twitter, for example, is notorious for digging old posts and matching them up with views that celebrities/influencers have had those years, ones who would include racial or homophobic slurs.
In most times, the digging results in unfavorable circumstances for both the individual and their fans, who for the most part are offended or disappointed at their favorite person. To look objectively on this issue, our newest writer, Claire Beseler, answered a couple of questions relating to this topic.
Claire Beseler, Writer
Q: In the current media cycle of influencers and celebrities being cancelled due to ignorance and past acts of racism, homophobia, etc. is it better for them to be forced to be educated or just resort to them being cancelled? What are our thoughts on “cancel” culture?
CB: It’s much better to educate someone for doing something wrong or offensive than to “cancel” them. Most of the time, people aren’t being offensive on purpose especially if someone is part of the majority and un-oppressed, they may not know what some people find offensive. Everyone is human and makes mistakes, and we as a generation using social media should not resort to calling people out in such an ugly way, but rather learn to forgive, educate, and forget. One example of this that I keep thinking about is when Kevin Hart was set to host the 2019 Oscars. Some homophobic tweets resurfaced from 2009 causing a lot of drama.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I can take offense to some of those statements but the time gap can really justify some things. America and the world 10 years ago was so insanely different than now. Gay marriage was not even legalized yet and those types of jokes were “deemed ok” by most of society. The fact that people were trying to cancel him for things that were said a decade ago just isn’t right to me. He apologized, and the world should have just moved on and let him host the Oscars, but he was so beaten down and bullied that he dropped out.
People can change and forgiveness and lessons should be given out before such aggressive “cyber-cancelling.”
The one time I believe cancel culture is ok to use is when someone does something wrong, gets called out, but then continues to be offensive or do the wrong thing even after people educate them. But even before cancelling those kinds of people, comes respectful listening and trying to educate them instead of all jumping on this bandwagon of putting down others because they made a mistake.
#BlackLivesMatter Petitions and Donation Links:
Justice for Breonna Taylor: https://www.change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor
Justice for Elijah McClain: https://www.change.org/p/adams-county-district-attorney-justice-for-elijah-mcclain-2
Elijah McClain’s Memorial Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/elijah-mcclain
Breonna Taylor: https://www.gofundme.com/f/9v4q2-justice-for-breonna-taylor
All donation links: https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html