Best Practices for Accessible, Inclusive News Writing

There are many wonderful, detailed guides about inclusive and accessible news writing. We won’t attempt to recreate them here, though we link to many at the end of this article.

Instead, these best practices aim to help guide your thought process as you work to develop news stories that are inclusive, accessible and better represent the diverse backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints that make up the UC Davis community.

These are guidelines, not rules. They are intended for UC Davis writers and content creators, many of whom cover science, arts, humanities, academic programs and student activities. We hope it will be useful to others who visit this page, as well.

This is a work in progress, and we will revisit and update these practices. We always appreciate your feedback:

1. Practice cultural competence

Inclusive writers learn about communities and cultures beyond their own — before they begin interviewing and writing. Books, movies, podcasts and community groups are great starting points. The UC Davis Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offers a variety of trainings for UC Davis affiliates. On campus, the LGBTQIA Resource CenterCross Cultural Center and others all offer resources that can help people build the knowledge and skills to listen, engage and build empathy.

2. Don’t just react — report

Staff writers are often so busy writing what they’re assigned, or reacting to requests, that unique stories highlighting diverse viewpoints and experiences can go unnoticed. Take time to seek out new people and explore lesser-told stories.

3. Reconsider the kinds of stories you tell

What topics or angles might touch a broader variety of people and backgrounds? Many stories naturally lend themselves to interviews with people from diverse socioeconomic, racial, cultural and other backgrounds.

4. Picture a diverse audience

Write to them, not about them. (Symmetry Magazine Style guide)

5. Redefine your experts

Interviewing not only the principal investigator or director, but also a student, co-author, or another relevant source can make for a richer, more diverse story.

6. Ask, don’t presume

Ask for pronouns as a matter of course during the interview: “Can you tell me your name, title and pronouns?” Ask yourself if your source’s race, gender, religion, disability, or other identity is necessary for the story. If it is, ask them what language they prefer, and make sure they are comfortable making that information public. (NSF Inclusive Science Communication Starter Kit)

7. Show, with permission

Include photographs of your sources, ideally in action. This helps readers connect with your content and — for science stories — humanizes science and research. Show the scientist in the lab, the researcher in the field, or the artist at their easel. This can enhance the visibility of people from underrepresented communities while inspiring a greater mixture of people to see themselves in these fields. See No. 6 tip above when writing  for image captions and alt text info, and remember to include identity information only if relevant and with permission. (See UC Davis Video Accessibility and our Visual Inclusivity Guide for best practices.)

8. Hand over the mic

Give voice. You’re the writer. Do you always have to be? Can you pass the “mic” or the “keyboard” over to a guest author to better share their perspective and lend an authentic and knowledgeable voice for their community?

9. Set expectations

Make sure your source knows what to expect. What’s the angle of the story? Where and when will it be posted? For what purpose will it be used? Are you sending it to media? Are they able to review it in advance? How long will it be? The more you make your source a partner, the less extractive and more inclusive your story will be.

10. Follow up

This is storytelling, not story-taking. Once your article is published, send a link to your sources. Encourage their feedback. If you monitor social media or news media coverage of the story, share those results with them, good and bad. Work through the bad with them if there is any. Such efforts reduce the transactional nature of storytelling that can arise and instead make it a partnership.

11. Seek guidance

Refer to the UC Davis Editorial Style Guide and AP Style for guidance on specific terms, as well as UC Davis inclusive and accessibility guides for Web AccessibilitySocial Media and Visual Communications.