How do you approach something when you don’t have the language for it? And how do you do it sensitively?
This is one of the questions Inqlusive Newsrooms seeks to answer, with an aim to help newsrooms in India become inclusive of and sensitive towards LGBTQIA+ individuals and identities.
The project was launched on Friday by the News Minute, Queer Chennai Chronicles and queerbeat, and is supported by Google News Initiative. It will have a phased rollout over the year, beginning with a translation of an existing glossary of LGBTQIA+ terms into more local languages.
Historically, most mainstream newsrooms in India have either underreported or misreported stories and identities of LGBTQIA+ persons and dehumanised them.
“It’s not just about covering pride or violence, but across beats,” Ragamalika Karthikeyan, editor of special projects and experiments at the News Minute said at the virtual launch of the project. “How do we write about LGBTQIA+ with dignity, respect, how do we make sure that a person’s personhood is maintained, how do we make sure that a community is not disrespected in the course of our journalism? How do we make sure that stories that are disrespectful and dehumanising queer persons don’t keep happening?”
One of the goals was to help journalists tell stories in a deeper, more meaningful way, and not just chase the gore and fantasy model of reporting. To ensure that journalists are not just going after stories about gory crimes against queer people or looking at only pride marches and spectacles.
In its next phase, the project aims to create an LGBTQIA+ media reference guide in six languages – English, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, and Marathi. The guide and the glossary together are to help journalists and newsrooms understand how to report and write about LGBTQIA+ individuals with respect, accuracy and journalistic vigour.
Down the year, it plans to conduct workshops in multiple languages for journalists. Mentoring fellowships will also be announced in the near future.
Moulee, co-founder of Queer Chennai Chronicles, said that they were conscious of the fact that the guide and glossary were not just translated from one language to another, but were taken from linguistic and cultural perspectives of queer persons who speak that language.
“There has been growing disenchantment among LGBTQIA+ people on how the media covers us,” said Ankur Paliwal, founder and editor of queerbeat, pointing to a survey on diversity of queer news in India. “Eighty percent said that it was not diverse and does not reflect the diversity of issues queer people have. The hope here is to together do stories in which LGBTQIA+ persons can see themselves, identify with, feel validated. We are confident that newsrooms will see value in associating with us, because it's an opportunity for them to make their coverage inclusive and diverse, and serve their audience.”
In the run-up to the launch, Inqlusive Newsrooms said it had been collaborating with journalists, who told them that they were aware of the problems but were not sure of what could be done. The project is aimed to be a starting point, as is the guide, with chapters on subjects ranging from crime to education, entertainment, and sports.
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