Implicit bias is a subconscious bias that includes negative associations about individuals or groups of people. Techniques to counter implicit bias in journalism could include finding as wide a variety of sources as possible, considering everyone as an individual rather than a “type,” and consulting trusted colleagues or third-party inclusivity readers on specific issues.
Inclusion is sharing power by bringing historically underserved groups into processes and decision-making. Inclusivity in journalism can look like using gender-neutral language, featuring people (experts and non-experts) from a wide array of backgrounds, and ensuring stories about historically underserved groups do not only center on trauma.
Indigenous can refer to the original inhabitants of a place, and to their customs, language, and other cultural markers. In the continental United States, Indigenous peoples are also referred to broadly as Native Americans, American Indians, and First Americans. Those who are Indigenous to Alaska are typically called Alaska Natives. There are several Indigenous Pacific Islander populations in the US, including Native Hawaiians, the CHamorus of the Mariana Islands, and Samoans. While Indigenous can be used as a broad category, it’s clearest to specify the population being referred to whenever possible, and to take into account an individual’s preference whenever possible.
Intersectionality is the simultaneous intersection of discrimination and disempowerment that creates overlapping vulnerabilities. Considering intersectionality means remembering that one factor, such as race or religion, doesn’t drive all of someone’s behaviors or opinions. Similarly, one individual cannot “stand in” for an entire group, and no group has monolithic views or behaviors.
People of color have long faced different types of discrimination within the medical system, which contributes to disparities in health outcomes, treatment, and life expectancy. Mistrust is based not only on historic instances and generational and community information but also on ongoing implicit bias in the health care system that impacts the care received by a person of color. Consideration of the forces that continue to shape the experiences people of color have within the health care system is important when writing about someone’s experience with an illness or disability.
A microaggression is an action, statement, or behavior that communicates derogatory messages to a person or group of people that may be subtle or concealed in everyday language. When relevant to coverage, explaining how microaggressions can manifest, and the negative effects they can have, adds essential context for audiences.
Minority is a term that is often used to refer to nonwhite populations but is vague and not accurate in every situation (for instance, when discussing a neighborhood whose population is majority Hispanic or Latino). Preferable alternatives if discussing in a broader sense may include people/communities of color and underrepresented populations. Whenever possible, it’s best for clarity to be specific about the population(s) being described.
Mpox (“em-pox”), or monkeypox, is a disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, which is related to smallpox. It is primarily transmitted from human to human through prolonged close physical contact, including sexual contact, though it is not currently categorized as a sexually transmitted infection. To refer to the populations seeing the largest numbers of mpox cases as of August 2022, some organizations suggest phrasing such as “men who have sex with men and those in their sexual networks,” which emphasizes behavior rather than identity. However, being as specific as possible about the population(s) being discussed may be helpful for clarity. Some scientists have criticized the name “monkeypox,” saying it is stigmatizing and has racist connotations; alternatives in use in some places beyond mpox include MPX, hMPX, and MPV. As with reporting on any disease or diagnosis, it’s important to keep people’s right to privacy in mind, and to consider whether disclosing someone’s diagnosis or vaccination status is truly necessary and relevant to coverage.
Pacific Islander refers to an Indigenous inhabitant of Melanesia, Micronesia, or Polynesia. Though Pacific Islanders are sometimes grouped with Asian Americans when discussing in a general sense, as in the term AAPI, some activists think this grouping can flatten the significant differences among subgroups of Asian Americans and especially ignore the unique experiences and needs of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. As with any such identifier, if necessary and relevant to coverage to include, being as specific as possible and taking into account an individual’s preference whenever possible ensures coverage accurately reflects how someone self-identifies.
People of color (POC) and BIPOC (which stands for Black, Indigenous, and people of color) are nonspecific terms used as shorthand to describe nonwhite people. The latter is slightly more specific about which populations are included, but both have been criticized for their vagueness and how they can seem to flatten or erase differences among various groups. As with any identifier, paying attention to an individual’s preferences whenever possible, and being as specific as possible, ensures coverage reflects how a person self-identifies.
Last updated 08/05/22
Race and ethnicity are critical aspects of people’s and communities’ identities. They have often been viewed as interchangeable but are two distinct identifiers. This section of the Language, Please style guidance aims to help journalists accurately cover the nuances in stories surrounding race and ethnicity, recognize the systemic and interconnected ways that race and ethnicity shape experiences, and write stories with care and concern for the individuals involved.
This resource was informed by questions and discussions from our own newsrooms. It is a living document that will update and expand over time. It is not meant to be comprehensive or the definitive arbiter of language “rules” but instead aims to give context and inform thoughtful decision-making. Have a suggestion for an update, change, or addition? Please get in touch.
How to use: Browse the whole section or search for the term you need guidance on; click into any term for in-depth context, additional resources, and related terms.
AAPI stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which includes a vast array of nationalities, cultures, and languages. Some argue that both “AAPI” and “Asian American” flatten and/or erase important cultural, economic, educational, religious, and other differences that exist between groups and communities. Nuanced coverage will take care to explore those differences when and where relevant. Taking into account an individual’s preference and being as specific as possible ensures coverage accurately reflects how someone self-identifies.
Coded language consists of seemingly neutral terms that actually describe identity (often racial or ethnic identity) and carry negative connotations. It may be useful to include the histories of terms such as “massage parlor” and “inner city,” which are often used in coded ways, as well as the hidden meanings of other coded language, to ensure these terms are being used only when appropriate and with sufficient context and explanation.
Police brutality is the use of excessive force against people by law enforcement. It disproportionately affects Black and brown people. Mentioning racial disparities in police killings in related stories, and linking to a reliable source such as Mapping Police Violence, can help illustrate the scope of the issue.
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