Communities change and so do news organizations. People come and go, as well as their traditions.
At The Western Front, we strive to get it first and get it right. And as we move into the 2016-2017 academic year, we’re making important changes to our style guide. While we adhere mainly to The Associated Press style guide, we adapt our guide to fit our individual community’s needs.
A style guide allows news organizations to be consistent, concise and correct.
According to Purdue University, a style guide “should offer a method that is widely applicable.”
They set the standard for accuracy. But they are by no means ever finished or flawless.
Western’s community is also ever changing and evolving, and here at The Western Front, we want to encourage that growth.
Some news organizations have explored how to properly cite and refer to a source’s gender identity beyond the binary of he/she and him/her. Gendered pronouns refer to a source’s gender on second reference. Substituting they/them pronouns, allows news organizations to avoid the use of gendered pronouns that limits a source to male or female.
Some argue that sources using they/them pronouns doesn’t fit the nature and rules of grammar. But grammar, like news style, has always adjusted to societal norms – or at least should. Without knowing a person’s pronouns, news organizations like ourselves are in no position to assume when we do not know how someone identifies without asking.
Our sources have the right to be referred to as they wish, and The Western Front strives to respect that. After much discussion among the editoral staff, the consensus leads us to always encourage reporters to ask a source about their preferred pronouns and identification.
In the past, reporters and editors at The Western Front have encouraged the act of asking for pronouns for stories where it was relevant, such as articles relating to gender issues. This inspired the open dialogue about a broader change due to events on our campus. The staff has begun to ask about not only pronouns, but how a person wishes to identify in a story, from race, if appropriate, to preferred name usage. This has not always been a consistent policy and has not always been a requirement, since our staff changes quarterly. The Western Front continues to work toward making this an every day reality.
In addition, to stay up-to-date with campus preferences from groups on campus, LGBT will now be referenced as LGBTQ+ (other than in guest columns and letters to the editor) to ensure The Western Front is as inclusive as possible.
To remain transparent, we will now post a PDF of our style guide on our website in the “About” section. We welcome any feedback at The Western Front. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-650-3162.
Janae Easlon, editor-in-chief of The Western Front Welcome Back edition.