The Do’s and Don’ts of Reporting News Through a Racial Justice Lens

Posted December 12, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog dosanddontsofreporting 2016

The Unit­ed States’ well-doc­u­ment­ed lega­cy of oppres­sion and mar­gin­al­iza­tion of racial and eth­nic minori­ties con­tin­ues to impede children’s abil­i­ty to access the Amer­i­can dream” and threat­ens to under­mine the sta­bil­i­ty of communities.

One of the best way to under­stand the chal­lenges and bar­ri­ers that racial dis­par­i­ties still present is through pow­er­ful and fac­tu­al sto­ry­telling and journalism.

Dur­ing the 2016 Fac­ing Race Con­fer­ence in Atlanta, the award-win­ning Col­or­lines recent­ly offered tips for reporters and jour­nal­ists writ­ing about racial jus­tice. Col­or­lines is the inde­pen­dent, online pub­li­ca­tion of Race For­ward, which orga­nized the con­fer­ence with sup­port from the Casey Foundation.

The bet­ter leg­is­la­tors, com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and oth­er deci­sion mak­ers under­stand how racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion play out in pub­lic sys­tems and pol­i­cy, the bet­ter lead­ers can enact strate­gies to address those barriers.

Here are some of the tips from the Col­or­lines staff for reporters and media out­lets cov­er­ing a sto­ry through a racial lens:


  • Speak truth, even when it’s uncomfortable
  • Cen­ter peo­ple of col­or and make explic­it the domes­tic racial jus­tice angle and the inter­sec­tions (i.e. fem­i­nism, LGBTQ rights) at play
  • Pro­vide a sys­temic lens that includes con­text (laws, sta­tis­tics, poli­cies, his­tor­i­cal analy­sis, etc.)
  • Respect the way indi­vid­u­als and groups of peo­ple want to be identified


  • Intro­duce your per­son­al or orga­ni­za­tion­al bias
  • Use peo­ple of col­or” or diverse” when you are writ­ing about spe­cif­ic groups of peo­ple; name them directly
  • Des­ig­nate one per­son of col­or (or white per­son) in a sto­ry as the spokesper­son for an entire group of people
  • Assume your audi­ence shares your point of view. Per­son­al essays should employ facts, sta­tis­tics and anec­dotes to sup­port your thesis

The Casey Foun­da­tion, in part­ner­ship with the Aspen Insti­tute and more than a dozen of the nation’s best jour­nal­ists, pro­duced its own in-depth rec­om­men­da­tions for news­rooms cov­er­ing sto­ries relat­ed to racial and eth­nic disparities.

View the Aspen-Casey pub­li­ca­tion, Report­ing on Race in the 21st Century

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