Ethnic identification influencing the news

By Sydney Purpora

Teenager was arrested for jaywalking in California September 2015.

A teenager was arrested for jaywalking in California September 2015.

A journalist’s job is to report the news clearly so audiences can understand. When it comes to stories focusing on different ethnic groups, it can become tricky to know when identification is relevant or correctly used.

Ethnic identification is an issue today with the change in associated meanings.

Society is becoming more aware of negative connotations with titles of ethnic groups and want to make a change for the better.

For journalists, labeling groups or individuals can anger the public. Getting the news across to the public accurately can depend on how ethnic identifiers are used.

Not only can the journalist offend an ethnic group, but they can also incorrectly portray the ethnicity being discussed.

Choosing to reveal an individual or group’s ethnicity is almost as sensitive as revealing an underage child’s name in the news. It draws attention to only one aspect of the story, possibly swaying the audience’s opinion.

An article by Rory Carroll on theguardian.com, exhibits this problem. The headline of the story reading “Black teenager arrested by nine California police officers after ‘jaywalking'” not only reveals ethnicity when it isn’t relevant but the title used can be considered offensive.

The revealed ethnic identity of the teenager arrested, black, might be considered incorrect to the respective group. In this situation, the title used can insult those of that ethnicity because it is not accurately representing their true ethnicity.

As a journalist there will be times that one needs to cover diversity pieces or even interact with reporters of different ethnicities and it is important to be respectful. 

The best way to find out if a title of identification is offensive is to ask. It is never a bad thing to clarify with those involved how they would like to be addressed to properly tell the story.

Read another article on this topic…

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