A note from the editor in chief: gender identity and pronoun use

Updated: March 8, 2016 at 1:20 a.m.

As editor in chief of The Hatchet, I edit every piece of content we produce across our sections: news, opinions, culture and sports.

In light of conversations surrounding the Student Association election, I want to take some time to explain The Hatchet’s position on gender identity and pronoun use. The Hatchet, like many other newsrooms nationwide, makes every effort to use a source’s preferred gender pronouns. In everything we do, we strive to be accurate and fair.

Associated Press Style is considered the standard for traditional newsrooms, and The Hatchet follows AP Style in our writing and editing. According to the AP Stylebook, reporters should “use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.”

SA presidential candidate Erika Feinman openly identifies as queer and has a non-binary gender identity, which The Hatchet reported in a story about SA candidates representing minority groups.

Neither Feinman nor Feinman’s campaign staff have asked me to change the pronouns in any of our content, but because this issue was addressed at the SA debate on Monday, I want to provide more details about the editing and reporting process.

When Hatchet reporters or editors are unsure how a source identifies, they will ask for clarification. Feinman had three separate conversations with Hatchet reporters, dating back to Feb. 24, about preferred gender pronouns. In the emails, Feinman said “they/them” and “she/her” pronouns are acceptable.

“My pronouns are they/them/theirs/she/her/hers, so either is fine, but I do have a preference for they/them/theirs,” Feinman said in an email to a Hatchet reporter on Feb. 24.

The Hatchet used “she” and “her” pronouns throughout our content. That decision is consistent with past coverage of Feinman – including the announcement of Feinman’s candidacy from last month. It also reflects a journalistic standard to write as clearly and concisely as possible, in line with AP Style and recommendations from GLAAD and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

I also considered Feinman’s gender pronouns in the process of editing The Hatchet’s editorial board endorsements. While Feinman did not discuss pronouns or identity with the editorial board, I shared that information with its members. Because I was aware of the conversations between Feinman and our news section, and because gender pronouns did not come up during the endorsement hearing, I kept the pronoun use in the endorsement consistent with its use in news content.

Though I am not a member of the editorial board, I sit in on editorial board meetings to share facts and context with members. Our editorial board is 100 percent separate from our news section: Members neither write nor edit news stories, and our news editors and reporters do not provide their opinions on editorial topics.

Going forward, The Hatchet will refer to Feinman using “they” and “them” pronouns in all content, as that is what they said they preferred during Monday’s debate.

The Hatchet is not the only news organization to grapple with this sensitive topic, and I am certain we will not be the last. As always, I welcome feedback – I can be reached at cmurphy@gwhatchet.com. Letters to the editor in response to content can be submitted here.

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