In the world of journalism, maintaining respect for sources is of the utmost importance. It is imminent to spell each name correctly. Double-check the dates, the ages and all of the facts.
Use the pronouns “she/her” with a boy, he will get insulted. Use the pronouns “he/him” with a girl, she will get insulted. Use the pronouns “she/her” or “he/him” to a nonbinary person with the chosen pronouns “they/them,” they will get insulted. Very “shocking.” Still, for some reason, this concept is confusing.
British singer Sam Smith recently announced their new identification as they/them. He began identifying as nonbinary last March but kept the pronouns he/him until Sept. 13.
In an interview with the “Good Place” actress Jameela Jamil, Smith said, “Non-binary/genderqueer is that you do not identify in a gender.”
Major news outlets covered the news, illuminating nonbinary’s presence in society. It brought awareness to the identification. Smith’s declaration was a chance to educate people on the subject.
“I understand there will be many mistakes and misgendering,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “But all I ask is you please please try.”
Unfortunately, AP News did not try hard enough. The esteemed publication wrote an article on the news, misgendering Smith throughout with the pronouns he/him. It later issued a correction, rightfully changing the pronouns they/them. But when the makers of the AP Style Book, the “bible of journalism,” misgenders the center of its story, it is a loss for journalism. Especially on a subject centering on gender and pronouns.
Reporting ethically and with accuracy is ingrained in the veins of journalists. It is the responsibility of journalists to respect people’s gender, sexuality and race. It is the responsibility of journalists to write with sensitivity. To write with accuracy.
Merriam-Webster dictionary released a series of new definitions to its collection on September 19. This includes the reference of they/them, “to a single person whose gender is nonbinary.”
Language evolves. Critics complain that the concept of using they/them in the singular sense is too confusing or awkward. However, the pronouns they/they have been used in the singular sense in casual conversations for a while now. The dictionary wrote that the new definition, “addresses the complex ways we view ourselves and others and how we all fit in.”
Journalism writes to reflect people. Society is constantly changing and evolving. It is taking steps to become more inclusive. To expand boundaries our writing needs to reflect that.
Yes, we are all human. As Smith said, we make mistakes. And like they said, we need to try. Words are power, they have meaning and we need to use them carefully.
Lauren Rousseau is a journalism sophomore.
This Feb. 20, 2019, file photo shows singer Sam Smith posing for photographers upon arrival at the Brit Awards in London. The Oscar-winning pop star has declared his pronouns “they/them” on social media after coming out as non-binary in his “lifetime of being at war with my gender.” The English “Too Good at Goodbyes” singer said Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, he’s decided to “embrace myself for who I am, inside and out ...” (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP, File)