Today, Vox Media launches Language, Please, a free, living resource available to all journalists and storytellers seeking to thoughtfully cover evolving social, cultural, and identity-related topics. With style guidance, editorial tools, and a directory of inclusivity readers, it offers necessary context to help US newsrooms make informed decisions about language usage. 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.
“This project was inspired by the discussions we’ve had in our own newsrooms. A word that works for one situation or individual doesn’t always work for the next. The words we choose to use can either provide our audiences with a clear understanding of a subject or perpetuate dangerous stereotypes and misconstrue meaning. This is one resource, among many, for journalists to challenge their own biases in word choice,” said Melissa Bell, Publisher, Vox. “It builds on and complements existing newsroom guidelines and the work so many journalists, academics, activists, and others have done to inspire journalists to think critically about the language they choose, and why.”
Language, Please is designed to benefit newsrooms of all sizes across the United States, with resources including:
- Guidance on terms and topics spanning six main categories, including class and social standing; race and ethnicity; gender and sexuality; disabilities, neurodiversity, and chronic illness; and more. At times intentionally open-ended, the guidance provides context and evolving insights about each term and suggestions to help inform — not dictate — decisions around word choice.
- Access to a directory of independent inclusivity readers who can be hired at any point in the life of a story, whether in the early stages of developing an idea or in a final round of edits.
- Editorial tools including an interactive edit exercise for those who want to think through Language, Please guidance and how it aligns — or doesn’t align — with how they think about covering these topics. Additional downloadable materials provide individuals and newsrooms with tools to examine their current processes and interrupt biases.
“Language is constantly evolving, and news publications often end up as arbiters of language usage. Especially at this time of mistrust and polarization, reporters need to be intentional with their choice of words and conscious of their impact,” said Sewell Chan, editor in chief of The Texas Tribune and Advisory Council member to the project. “The Language, Please project is a valuable resource for writers and editors striving to report the news accurately, fairly, and with context.”
The project was conceived and developed with diversity, equity, and inclusion at its core. It was built with the expertise of individuals across editorial, product, design, technology, business development, DEI+, and public affairs at Vox Media. Outside resources from an Advisory Council, website developers, an instructional designer, and writers with aptitudes in gender identity and expression, disabilities, illnesses, socioeconomic issues, ethnicity, race, addiction, trauma, and more contributed to Language, Please.
“Inclusive language ensures news stories are accessible and equitable to readers, and we’re excited to support this important and necessary inclusive language project,” said Yash Shah, News Partnerships at Google. “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.”
Language, Please aims to contribute toward industry-wide efforts on thoughtful editorial decision-making. It is intentionally focused on editorial guidance. This is just the start for Language, Please, which is intended to be a living resource that is regularly updated to add new terms and reflect changing language practices. Users’ input can be a big part of that. Please get in touch at email@example.com.
Meet the Language, Please Advisory Council
Vox Media brought together an external Advisory Council of industry leaders to provide feedback as Language, Please was developed, and they’ll continue to share insights on an ongoing basis to help ensure that it continues to be a meaningful and effective tool for journalists, newsrooms, and organizations of all types:
Sewell Chan, Editor in Chief, The Texas Tribune
Tony Elkins, Product Director, Gannett
Aaron Harvey, CEO, Made of Millions
Robert Hernandez, Professor, USC Annenberg and National Association of Hispanic Journalists
Dr. Bethany Grace Howe, Board Member, National Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists and Communications Specialist, Oregon Department of Human Services
Jeff Marshall, Chief Diversity Officer, Head of Diversity, Equity & Belonging, UM Worldwide
Burke Olsen, Head Digital Officer, Deseret News
Tanya Pai, Style & Standards Editor, Vox (Council Liaison)
Cara Reedy, Disabled Journalists Association at Storyline Partners
Martin Reynolds, Co-Executive Director, Maynard Institute
Naomi Tacuyan Underwood, Executive Director, Asian American Journalists Association
Lauren Williams, Co-Founder and CEO, Capital B
This project was conceived of, designed, and led by the following group, with critical support and work from the many contributors to Language, Please:
Melissa Bell, Trei Brundrett, Geolie Cayme, Chris Clermont, Mila Djordjevic, Lyndsey Hayes, Andrew Losowsky, Tanya Pai, Brandy Porter, Carl Rosen, Lissa Soep, Krystal Stevens, Emma Van Susteren, Victor Ware, and Claire Yun.
Contributors to Language, Please
The following people were instrumental in the development and launch of Language, Please:
Grace Ambrossi, Sukanya Aneja, Abby Aranofsky, Noa Azulai, James Bareham, Katrina Barlow, Zack Beauchamp, Becky Becker, Tanya Boucicaut, Chris Carfolite, Chrystal China, Amber Davis, Laura Delarato, Phil Delbourgo, Lauren DiBlasi, Maia Dolphin-Krute, Jon Douglas, Brian Dunn, Tom Giratikanon, Constance Grady, Blair Hickman, Sam Harris, Laura Holder, J Jamerson, Sarah Jeong, Amanda Kludt, Nishat Kurwa, Gina LeBlanc, Priyanka Mantha, Peyton McCarthy, Justin Mellette, Emma Merlis, Ginny Mohler, Kiana Moore, John Ness, Anna North, Rochelle Odon, Katie O’Dowd, Lauren O’Shaughnessy, Nilay Patel, Lindsay Peoples, Zen Ren, Adi Robertson, Alicia Rodriguez, Andi Rogoff, Chris Roney, Swati Sharma, Matt Singerman, Shyra Smart, Lauren Starke, Emily Swaim, Alexis Swerdloff, Nekeed Upshaw, Hart Van Santvoord, Chrystal Winn, Edwin H. Wong, Winnie Yoe.
About Vox Media
Vox Media is the leading modern media company, reaching audiences everywhere they are.
Known for editorial properties including Vox, SB Nation, New York Magazine, The Dodo, and NowThis, the company’s portfolio features the most relevant, respected, and engaging editorial properties and voices. The company is also home to award-winning storytelling businesses such as Vox Media Studios and the Vox Media Podcast Network, as well as innovative technologies that support the entire media industry, including the Concert advertising marketplace. Vox Media proves that quality can scale.
About Vox Media’s corporate citizenship
Vox Media’s corporate citizenship is built on the belief that, as the leading modern media company, it is our responsibility to build a better media industry.
At Vox Media we are committed to building and sustaining a company and an industry that is diverse, inclusive, and safe for our people and our audiences. As a community of journalists and storytellers, business professionals, creators and technologists, we believe it is a moral and business imperative to amplify voices, share our best practices, and give back to our industry and the communities we live and work in.
The creativity and ambition to do this work comes from every division and from people at every level of the company.
About Google News Initiative
The Google News Initiative works side-by-side with publishers and journalists to build a more sustainable, diverse and innovative news ecosystem. Through programs, products, and partnerships, we strive to advance the practice of quality journalism and strengthen publisher business models in the digital age. Since 2018, we have supported more than 7,000 news partners in over 120 countries and territories around the world. We’ve provided training for over 450,000 journalists on skills including digital verification, data visualization, and machine learning through in-person training. And we have worked to bring together industry leaders around the world, cultivating a diverse news community to spur innovation and tackle pressing issues like media literacy and misinformation. Read more in the 2021 impact report here.