Queer LitFest series finale: Journalists talk about responsible reportage of the LGBTQIA+ community
Early this June, Justice Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court delivered a landmark judgment in the direction of creating a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community
Early this June, Justice Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court delivered a landmark judgment in the direction of creating a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community. Following which, the court issued a host of directions against police harassment and insensitive media reporting in matters pertaining to the community. Offering a reality check on how far we’ve come since then was the session on inclusive media reporting and its role in building queer narratives by journalists Ragamalika Karthikeyan and Ranjitha Gunasekaran.
Last in the Queer LitFest series this year, hosted by Queer Chennai Chronicles, the hour-long audio-only discussion Twitter Spaces on Friday stressed the importance of responsible reportage of the queer community.
The power of sensitisation
Bringing her decade-long experience to the table, Ragamalika emphasised, “The first step towards building an inclusive space is to factor in diversity. Sometimes, stories are reported by people who have little understanding of issues that the marginalised communities face. No matter how much you read up on their problems, there’s nothing equivalent to a person with lived experiences filing the report. Here’s where representation matters.”
While media coverage has increased over the years, and the tone, terms and language of reporting has evolved, not all reports are sensitive. So how does one evaluate the progress? “Advocacy from the community has played a crucial role. People would constantly reach out and share their suggestions. Recently, calling out on the Internet has instilled more responsibility in journalists to approach articles sensitively. In our newsroom, we follow structured guidelines while reporting on the problems of the community,” she shared.
Elaborating on the simple steps that journalists and media organisations can start with, Ragamalika suggested, “It’s relevant to stay updated with appropriate terminologies while addressing people. Deadnaming is disrespectful. It’s important to not restrict your stories to just individual achievements, Pride-related events and acts of violence. Respect people’s privacy and uphold confidentiality if need be. Get their consent before publishing quotes or pictures to avoid outing them and perpetuating false beliefs. When police and family are involved, one needs to be extra careful while listening to many versions of the same story. Most importantly, when you approach a story, ask yourself why you’re doing it and the kind of impact (you) hope to create.”
Build a queer-friendly future
Ranjitha Gunasekaran, assistant resident editor, Tamil Nadu, The New Indian Express, too supported the use of a style guide. “Following a style guide can help in maintaining uniformity while reporting stories even within the same organisation. Editors and reporters can be given formal training on reporting queer stories. Constant involvement with the community is necessary as that paves way for two-way communication. A holistic perspective is needed as each case is different. We need to educate ourselves to be mindful of legal and ethical issues while reporting so that we do no harm to the community because of our ignorance.” In the end, it all boils down to the objective of the journalist. The job doesn’t end with writing and publishing the story, but the narrative it builds.
“Readership or TRP should not be your priority. Your story should be capable of affecting policies and influencing decision-making. In a newsroom, deadline pressures can be crazy but the essence of the story cannot be compromised for that. Experts and advocates from the community may insist on running the quotes by them before publishing the story in the fear of being misquoted. All this needs to be taken care of to gain the confidence of the community. Admit if you’re wrong and leave behind your prejudice because that’s the first step to grow,” summed up Ranjitha.