by Laurel Duggan
Google is funding a Vox Media initiative to promote gender ideology and activist language in newsrooms nationwide, according to an announcement from Vox Media.
The Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge, a project that funds online journalism, is funding Vox Media’s new language guide for writers, “Language, Please,” Vox Media said in an article announcing the publication of the guide. The guide, which is meant to be used by outlets across the country, encourages journalists to avoid gendered words like “boy” and “girl” and links to “inclusivity readers” they can hire to correct their language.
“This project was established by Vox Media, created in consultation with leaders from across the media industry, and developed with funding from the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge starting in December 2020,” the Vox article read.
“Referring to children more broadly in gender-neutral terms rather than with a phrase like ‘boys and girls’ acknowledges that gender is now understood in many circles as a spectrum rather than a binary,” the guide says.
One entry claims that the public use of a transgender person’s “deadname,” or birth name, puts transgender people at risk of violence and harassment. It encourages writers to use transgender people’s preferred names and pronouns and discourages phrases that acknowledge an individual’s sex at birth.
The Vox Media language guide also instructs reporters to use gender-neutral language when discussing abortion, in contrast to guidance from the Associated Press discouraging the use of phrases like “pregnant people” in abortion coverage. The AP guide says writers can ignore the rule when an abortion article is focused on women’s rights and feminism, however.
“Language, Please” also includes a 10-page guide to navigating “tricky conversations with your colleague” which instructs writers to “call for backup” when confronting a coworker about language choice in their articles. It also encourages reporters to find community in identity-based employee resource groups.
In addition to gender ideology, the guide tells journalists which phrases to use when covering a host of other issues including immigration, class, mental health and substance abuse. One practice exercise instructs writers to avoid the phrases “homeless,” “poor,” “addicts” and “abusing drugs,” and calls these labels “dehumanizing” and “stigmatizing.”
“The aim is to provide greater context, dig into some history you may not have known about a term, and inform thoughtful decision-making in writing and editing,” Vox Media president Pam Wasserstein wrote in an all-staff email obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The goal is for this resource to help take the burden off those who have been historically marginalized in the newsroom and are too often relied on to take on certain beats, reshape issues and language, edit stories on social and cultural topics, and educate others on topics related to identity,” she said.
A spokesperson from Vox Media told the DCNF the guidance is not binding for writers and is meant to serve as a supplement to existing style guides rather than a replacement. She declined to comment on the extent of the Google funding.
“Inclusive language ensures news stories are accessible and equitable to readers, and we’re excited to support this important and necessary inclusive language project,” Yash Shah, a Google spokesperson, said in Vox Media’s article about the initiative. “The Google News Initiative aims to help news organizations address complex industry challenges and develop new approaches for online journalism that meets communities where they are, and Language, Please does exactly that.”
A Google spokesperson directed the DCNF to Vox Media’s article and declined to comment further. Wasserstein did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
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Laurel Duggan is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.