Word choice matters. Journalists must be careful when writing about Gypsies, race, and immigration, The UK National Union of Journalists reminded recently.
Don’t publish racist letters or online comments to help avoid harming or upsetting readers. Fact check comments by politicians about immigration to make sure you aren’t spreading misinformation.
Those are just some of the guidelines included in the National Union of Journalists’ race reporting guidelines, which have existed in some form for about 10 years but have been recently updated and published again.
“The additions mainly surrounded the issue of immigration so we could include the issue of EU migration which has become a bigger issue in the last few years,” the NUJ’s Lena Calvert explained to iMediaEthics. “So it was a refresh and some small additions to reflect societal changes.”
Advising journalists how to best and most sensitively report on immigration issues is part of an all-over trend in the journalism industry. This issue of how to report on immigrants has been a hot button topic in the United States as well, as iMediaEthics has written. The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets last year advised their journalists against using the term “illegal immigrant.” (Read more about those outlets’ standards here.)
The NUJ’s directive helps journalists be fair in reporting on these topics. It says:
“Don’t use terms such as ‘bogus’, ‘illegal’ or ‘failed’ asylum seeker. If necessary, use ‘refused’ asylum seeker instead. A fairer term to use for someone who has outstayed their visa is ‘undocumented’ or ‘irregular.'”
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The NUJ’s Calvert told iMediaEthics that the guidelines were revised and republished this month to add guidance about immigration and an overall “refresh.”
The NUJ also updated the guidelines to make them more accessible and concise, especially given the “changing dynamic of politics surrounding race in the UK and Ireland,” Calvert wrote.
Journalists are also advised to be careful when using words like Gypsy and immigrant. As a fail-safe rule, just ask sources how they prefer to be identified instead of assuming the race or background of a person.
Also, “only include a person’s race if relevant,” the guidelines recommend. And, be diverse in reporting and avoid sensationalism.
The NUJ’s Calvert noted that the guidelines have been vetted by “all the union’s various committees including its Black Members Council, NUJ Ethics Council and finally the National Executive Council.”