Photo: Premila D'Sa

Choosing words wisely

In Editorial /

By Sierra Bein

We have a lot of heavy talks at our office, but this past Sunday was a particularly notable one.

When reporting on the abortion protestors on campus, even writing a simple tweet for the publication can become a lengthy deliberation.

We tend to go back and forth about the image choice, the focus of the update and simply trying to decide on the name to use for the protesters.

We write the tweets to warn students that they’re present on Gould Street, but are also careful not to let the graphic pictures make it on to our news feed. For a lot of people on campus, and even in our office, these images can be disturbing, but the message of their cause can be even worse.

Not wanting to enrage or upset, every choice is an important factor to the story we’re trying to tell and the message we’re trying to get across.

In journalism school, you’re taught to simply report equally on both sides. Practicing equity means that you understand reporting on certain topics in that same way we’re taught can be detrimental to society around you, or can be oppressive. Over the past year, a lot of words have been debated in the media.

A handful of organizations still don’t use they/them pronouns for fear of compromising clarity.

However, the Associated Press (AP), a world leader in journalistic formatting and guidelines, have started using they/them to more correctly identify individuals in their storytelling.

Earlier this year, AP has also suggested avoiding terms like “alt-right” that they don’t feel properly represents the supporters’ beliefs clearly to the reader.

“Avoid using the term generically and without definition, because it is not well-known globally and the term may exist primarily as a public relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience,” reads a story published by AP, explaining their reasoning.

When reporting on the abortion protestors on campus, even writing a simple tweet for the publication can become a lengthy deliberation

Similarly, news publications flip flop between different names for the protesters we see on campus. Pro-life, anti-choice and anti-abortion are all used interchangeably, but carry vastly different meanings. There’s no rule that publications are forced to follow, but each organization needs to make a choice for themselves.

At our meeting this week, we decided that an important part of telling this story is to call them by the name that we felt described it best, and in the most true way. Similar to AP, we wanted to curb the issue of a lack of clarity.

We didn’t think that the term pro-life was accurate, because there is no law in our country that currently incriminates the choice that many people make—these people are not murderers.

We also didn’t want to use anti-abortion because there are some groups that also want to stop the use of birth control and Plan B.

But when it comes to whether protesters like the ones on Gould Street are taking away a choice, that wasn’t something we could argue.

Similar to many things in life, I can be a scaredy-cat. Thinking about writing this editorial is definitely one of those things. I know the type of criticism that comes with this topic, but our masthead collectively agreed this was a necessary editorial to write, to explain this editorial decision to our readers.

Sometimes publications forget that we are able to make these calls. Our call is to say anti-choice.

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