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Sept. 18, 2020, 11:29 a.m.
LINK: www.spj.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   September 18, 2020

Is it “Black” or “black”? (Or African-American? Or kill the hyphen?) Hispanic, Latino, Latino/a, Latin@, or Latinx? Is calling a piece of legislation a “bathroom bill” an acceptable shorthand? LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQIA — or none of the above?

These are the kinds of decisions that can show up in any journalist’s writing (or, in many cases, their reporting). Getting them wrong can offend, misinform, or both.

Most of the major race- or gender-focused journalism associations have created style guides that aim to help with these decisions. (See: NAHJ, NABJ, AAJA, NAJA, NLGJA, and TJA.) But sometimes you just need to talk something out.

Enter the Society of Professional Journalists, which is partnering with the Trans Journalists Association on its brand new SPJ Race & Gender Hotline:

You’re a reporter on deadline. How do I properly identify that transgender crime victim?

You’re an editor on deadline. Can my headline be short and sensitive?

You’re an art director on deadline. Is my illustration stylistic or whitewashing?

You’re a photographer on deadline. Is my photo representative or insensitive?

SPJ has partnered with experienced Black and LGBT journalists and educators, including the Trans Journalists Association. They’ll offer concrete advice for your specific situation.

Even if you choose not to follow that advice, you’ll hang up with an enlightened grasp of the race-and-gender issues currently roiling the news media. And whatever happens on your call, it’s all off the record.

SPJ also produces the Diversity Style Guide, for the human-contact-averse.

To be clear, this isn’t a hotline in the 1-800-DONT-BE-RACIST sense; it’s a form you fill out with whatever question you have. Once you hit “Submit,” an expert will get back to you — and they’ll be paid, by SPJ, for their time. (“Why is this important? Because it’s become a sad stereotype that White people are constantly asking POC and LGBT communities for advice.”) Expect a response “within a few hours” — though I’d hope that more urgent deadline queries could be pushed to the top of the queue.

“You’ll have a calm conversation about controversial topics because this is a business transaction, no different than consulting a First Amendment attorney on a story,” the site says.

The Race & Gender Hotline is modeled on SPJ’s longstanding Ethics Hotline.

SPJ president Matthew T. Hall — just elected to that post a few days ago and by day an editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune — says think of this as a beta: “I’d love to see this program become bigger and involve even more experts and advocacy groups.”

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