While working as the digital and graphics producer this week, I was tasked with creating a caption for a story on the Trump administration's ban of transgender people in the military. Summarizing a story in only two or three words is more challenging than it seems and, as in this case, it can be even more complicated when it involves stories with complex and sensitive social issues. In general, stories dealing with topics of diversity and inclusion are a source of anxiety for me, as I feel a heightened responsibility to be respectful and fair so not to offend anyone. Whether interviewing sources, writing scripts, or referring to specific groups of people in a story, I feel that I must make a serious effort to be sensitive and knowledgeable regarding topics of diversity and foreign issues.
For one, every producer, reporter and viewer carries an implicit bias, or unconscious judgments about stories that involve people who are different. When covering the New York City terror attack as a radio producer this week, I believe I demonstrated my understanding of existing implicit biases. While several major news outlets, such as the New York Times, reported that the suspect screamed "Allah Akbar" when exiting the truck he crashed, I chose not to include the detail in the radio newscast. More specifically, though I understand that screaming "God is great" is not malicious or evil by any means, I'm aware that certain viewers can perceive the phrase with a negative connotation or even associate it with acts of terror.
As a solution to covering stories about diversity and inclusion, I believe both myself and my teammates need to make a concerted effort to reach out to other Media Center members who have more familiarity with specific topics. For example, with stories involving international and foreign issues, we should suggest that reporters collaborate with members of the international desk. Also, we must be more respectful and sensitive when contacting sources for stories involving topics of diversity. In other words, we shouldn't assume that every Jewish student would feel a certain way about a story involving Israel, or that every LGBTQ person would have the same reaction to a military ban for transgender people.
In summary, stories dealing with topics of inclusion and diversity shouldn't be a source of anxiety, but rather an opportunity to learn more and inform our audience about complex social issues. To do so, however, we must be conscious of existing implicit biases as well as more respectful and sensitive when reporting on the story.