Best Practice Guides

What are best practice guides?  In journalism, best practice guides are guiding principles, standards and methods to ensure that the reporting of certain topics is fair and ethical.

Why do we need to use best practice guides? As journalists, we often enter communities which we know little about, and even with the best intentions, the way we represent those groups can maintain stereotypes and/or cause harm.  For example, when interviewing children or people who have experienced trauma we need to be extremely mindful and interview in a way that causes no harm – sometimes it’s not appropriate for a journalist to interview at all. For another example the language journalists use is important; previously the mainstream term for people living with disabilities in China was can fei” (残废), which means “useless”. Right now, the widely used term is “can ji” (残疾), which means “deformed”. A better term is the more neutral “can zhang” (残障). In English people living with a disability are often called disabled, but see the difference between – ‘The disabled girl‘ and ‘The girl living with a disability’. In the first phrase, disabled becomes the main identity of the girl, in the second it does not.

As journalists, we need to be aware of our own biases and assumptions and challenge them. We need to seek out and employ best practice guidelines relevant to the stories we report, especially when working with vulnerable and minority groups such as children ethnic or sexual minorities.

Take a look at the best practice guide here and find your own, if you can find some local Chinese ones all the better. You may follow one set or combine and convert a few into your own set of guidelines and ethical approach. You will need to clearly state your guidelines and approach in your production brief.

Interviewing & filming children

It’s quite common for IMMJMA students to work with children. When filming or interviewing children it’s essential to respect and protect them. If you will be working with children, read the guidelines below and ensure that you speak with your tutor before you go into the field.

You should seek the consent of the parent or guardian and be sure that a responsible adult is present.  Let the child know what you are doing and that they should feel comfortable to answer or not answer any questions. Keep checking in with them to ensure they are comfortable. Do not interview children with trauma.

“Guiding Principle: The guiding, overarching principle is that due care must be taken over the physical and emotional welfare and the dignity of people under 18 who take part in or are otherwise involved in programs, from initial approach to transmission and beyond.” – Channel 4

Read them all and pick out the points that apply – make your own short guide.

Resource guides focus on coverage of mental health

There’s a ton of resources included in this article:

On nearly a daily basis, journalists find themselves covering stories about crime and violence in their communities. When reporters starting looking for the “why” behind the story, they sometimes discover the people involved have a history of behavioral health problems, including mental illness and substance abuse.

Advocates say it is important for journalists to avoid stereotypes when covering these issues, and report fairly and sensitively about those affected. RTDNA links to several resources to aid in developing coverage.

Style guide helps journalists report on disabilities

The National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University has developed a style guide for journalists who report or write about people living with disabilities. We have included a link to the guide under the training tab on the website for easy reference.
The guide offers information and advice on commonly used words or terms, from “able-bodied” to “confined to a wheelchair.” In addition, the guide provides a brief background on each word or term and touches on instances in which disability organizations disagree on usage. It also notes whether or not the word or term is addressed in The Associated Press Stylebook. Two-thirds of the entries in the NCDJ guide are not covered in the AP Stylebook.
Along with the guide, the NCDJ also has created a companion piece, “Terms to Avoid When Writing About Disability.” The article offers advice to communicators on why they should avoid using terms such as “epileptic fit” or “senile” and directs them to more neutral language.

The NCDJ was founded in 1998 in San Francisco as the Disability Media Project to raise awareness of how the news media cover people with disabilities. The organization was renamed in 2000 and moved to the Cronkite School in 2009.

NCDJ’s disability style guide is available on the organization’s website or as a printable PDF at

Also see

Best Practices for reporting gender and sexual minorities 

The first thing you need to decide on is if someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation is even relevant to the story you are telling. If it’s not, leave it out.

Concealing Identity when filming or photographing

Occasionally it may be necessary to protect the anonymity of the people you document. Here are some tips from Witness Here are some more Techniques for Protecting Anonymity in Videos.

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Also, take a look at these examples:
Adam Furgeson’s work about girls abducted by Boko Haram.
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Giulia Marchi made several portraits of a Chinese woman who accused her university professor of sexual harassment. It’s a very different approach from Adam Furgeson’s work. She uses a lot of natural elements from the environment to cover her face. (You can also see the full set of photos in her FB post:
Indian photographer Smita Sharma did a series of portraits of women survivors of sexual violence:
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Another project is this one by Swedish photographer Asa Sjostrom: Shot 2018-02-25 at 00.00.22
Here’s a reportage about a prison in the US. All the inmates’ identity is protected by not showing their face:
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Katherina Hesse’s work is another example, where protecting sources was imperative.
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Another story on victims of Boko Haram by Paulow Pellegrin.
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Glenna Gordan gives an entirely different approach by photographing objects. 
 See this behind the scenes article
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