A person’s race should not be mentioned unless relevant. This also applies to references to ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. Derogatory terms or slurs aimed at members of a racial or ethnic group may not be used unless having a direct bearing on the news, and then only with the approval of the senior editor in charge. Avoid stereotypes. Race and ethnicity may be relevant in some stories, including the following:

  • Crime stories – A highly detailed description of a suspect sought by police can contain [skin color]. Be sure the description is properly attributed. Do not use descriptions that include only a few items or are vague, such as tall, dark clothes. [A detailed description might include a person’s complexion, facial features, distinguishing marks or tattoos, etc.]
  • Biographical or announcement stories – Be careful about using race or ethnicity to describe a person as the first to accomplish a specific feat. Firsts are important, but race and ethnicity shouldn’t be overemphasized. Reserve race or ethnicity for significant, groundbreaking or historic events such as winning a Nobel Prize, being named chief justice or becoming mayor. By overplaying race or ethnicity, one’s achievement may seem dependent on that instead of ability.
    REFERENCE: NABJ Style Guide

See ethnicity.


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