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SPJ Offers Guidelines for Coverage to Counter Ethnic and Religious Profiling


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Julie Grimes, SPJ deputy director, or 317/927-8000 ext. 216
Sally Lehrman, SPJ Diversity chair, 650/728-8211 or

INDIANAPOLIS – The Diversity Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists has issued a set of guidelines to help journalists counter religious and ethnic profiling in coverage of the U.S. war on terrorism.

“Journalists need to cover all aspects of a complicated and emotional situation in a fair and accurate way,” said Sally Lehrman, a medical technology writer and chair of the committee. “The repetition of certain images and wording can unintentionally lead to racial profiling and the hate crimes that come with it.”

The guidelines elaborate on two resolutions adopted Oct. 6 by the delegates to the SPJ National Convention that urge journalists to strive for ethical and informative coverage of all the communities throughout the United States and the world. (View Resolution No. 2 and Resolution No. 3)

“The resolutions and the guidelines reflect the first principle of the SPJ Code of Ethics, ‘Seek truth and report it’,” said SPJ President Al Cross, a political columnist for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. “Some of the pertinent points covered by that principle say that we should not stereotype, misrepresent, oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context, and that we should give voice to the voiceless, avoid imposing our own cultural values on others, and tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.”

The guidelines offer tips on choosing stories and sources that help demystify Muslims, Arab Americans and other targeted groups, and for using informative rather than inflammatory language and images. They encourage the media to seek a variety of voices and perspectives routinely and include a list of resources to help journalists educate themselves about Muslims, Arab Americans, South Asian Americans and their coverage in the news.

The SPJ Ethics Code encourages journalists to tell the story of the diversity of the human experience boldly even when it is unpopular to do so.

The new guidelines were developed in consultation with the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Muslim Council, experts on Islam and its history, the South Asian Journalists Association, the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and Newswatch, a project of the Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University.

Read the guidelines.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. The organization is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

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