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Editor & Publisher - 2021-06-01

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What are your tips for reporting on immigration?

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The headlines declare that a “surge” of immigrants is “flooding” across the southern border of the United States. Journalists need to exercise better judgment, even if repeating an official. Words that describe immigration can further stereotypes against people of color. It’s important to remember that people who are in the U.S. illegally didn’t necessarily enter without documentation through the southern border. The Center for Migration Studies found that overstaying a temporary visa is the primary reason an immigrant is illegally in the U.S. The responsible thing to do when reporting on immigration is to be as precise as possible. Describe the country of origin for the immigrants. Also be explicit about their status. Have they overstayed their visas? Are they awaiting adjudication on asylum claims? Are some members of the family U.S. citizens? Be wary of language that unnecessarily dehumanizes our sources and perpetuates unconscious bias against groups of people. Journalists must recognize our power to shape the public discourse. Echoing officials without skepticism can be dangerous, especially when those experts use language intended to create distance. Doris Truong is director of training and diversity at The Poynter Institute. Her portfolio includes helping newsrooms better cover their communities and providing the resources to recruit, retain and develop diverse journalists. She previously was a Washington Post homepage editor and led the digital strategy for the desktop and mobile audience on weekends.

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