When Should Journalists use Identifiers?

Including identifiers like race, gender and religion on the news story or not has always been a difficult question for journalists. Some people see identifiers as basic information, but some may think that including the identifiers in the news report are discrimination and fuel stereotypes. To figure out whether journalists should include identifiers in the news report, they can ask few questions first.

According to the Guidelines for Racial Identification of Radio Television Digital News Association, journalists can ask the following questions to decide are identifiers necessary fro the story. The first question is ‘Is it relevant?’ journalists should first understand the genre of the story. If that is a story about race or ethnicity, the identifiers are needed. However, if that is just a simple story, for example, the dispute between two people, the identifiers are not necessary to include in the story. The second question is ‘Have journalists explained the relevance?’ journalists have to explain in the story that why the identifiers are included. So that avoid readers’ dissatisfaction. Lastly, the guideline also suggested journalists to ask ‘Is it free of codes?’, ‘Are racial identifiers used evenly?’, ‘Should I consult someone of another race/ethnicity?’

In the ONA Ethics, it suggested that when a person ‘becomes the first of his or her race, gender, ethnicity or religion to attain some achievement or milestone, the reference makes sense’. For example, in the Golden Globe Award this year, Tracee Ellis Ross became the first black woman to win the award of Best Performance by an Actress in a comedy or musical television series since Debbie Allen won in 1983. The Independent even use this in the headline of the news. Also, when Sadiq Khan elected to be the mayor of London, lots stories focus on he was the first Muslim to become mayor of a major Western capital.



Carissimo 2017, Tracee Ellis Ross becomes the first black woman to win a Golden Globe for best actress in 35 years, The Independent.

Woods, Guidelines for Racial Identification, Radio Television Digital News Association

Kent, Racial, ethnic, religious, gender and sexual orientation references, ONA Ethics


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