Should journalists use the phrase 'Religious Freedom Restoration Act' in their reporting?

Now, Indiana is not alone. Tuesday, Arkansas joined the Hoosier State in passing a so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In Arkansas the act, which critics say opens the door to allowing businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation or identity, is heading to the governor's desk. In Indiana, the governor signed the bill last week and has been catching hell for it ever since.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is careful to headline the bill as HB 1228, not The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as the law is formally known. That is the same name attached to the Indiana law.

We plopped some of our Poynter colleagues in front of a camera to ask about language and that front-page editorial:

This bill at the center of the debate is called the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act." How concerned should journalists be that they are being used as propagandists when they refer to the act with that language, even when that is a proper noun? Is there an alternative?

Here's my take. As I note in the video, this certainly isn't the first time journalists have faced this issue.

Here's Poynter's Katie Hawkins-Gaar, who reminds us that context is important.

Poynter's Kelly McBride recommends using more words to help people understand the bill.

"We've failed so many times on issues like these," Poynter's Ren LaForme says.

And Poynter's Vidisha Priyanka says "let's just call it what it is."

Tuesday, the Indianapolis Star featured a stunning front page editorial commanding the governor and legislature "Fix This Now." Does this kind of advocacy belong on the front page? Does a stance like this confuse readers about the role of journalists as fair and open-minded observers? 

Poynter's Roy Peter Clark says there have been other examples of newspapers using editorials as unique and powerful forms of expression.

LaForme says, "this is supposedly 10, 15 years after print is dead."

From my view, "rarely but sometimes," the front page is the right place for an editorial.

And from McBride: "My sense is that the audience is really looking for leadership on an issue like this."

What do you think? We would love to get your thoughts in our comment section, on Facebook and Twitter.


Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon