Writing about people from diverse backgrounds challenges both those writing and those being written about to ask themselves, “What language is fair? What is ethical? What is respectful? As we consider how we discuss issues of identity, it’s important to note that often, the person gathering the information and creating the annual report story or the script or the news release is an outsider to the lives of the people being covered.
I recently attended the CASE Social Media Conference in Portland, which brings higher-education professionals together to share their perspectives on using social media as a marketing platform. This was my first CASE conference and I was pleased to find the presentations insightful, the presenters inspiring, and the community kind and welcoming.
In the late 1980s, I joined the Office of University Relations as photography coordinator. Like similar offices at other universities, our office had evolved from a news bureau that served both internal and external audiences. Dedicated writers, many with prior experience in the news industry, wrote stories in Associated Press news style. Photographers schooled in photojournalism attempted to walk the line between news and editorial styles.
Near the end of every major project — viewbook, campaign, website — I can predict one event with certainty: I will awaken in a panic at 3 a.m., wondering, “Did I put the right year on the cover? Is that professor’s name spelled correctly? Did we check those links?”
And, of course, I did, and it is, and we have, but I am always paranoid about potential mistakes. Over a long editorial career at the University of Kansas, I’ve learned a few tricks that lessen my anxiety somewhat. In the hope that they’ll be useful to other KU communicators, here they are.