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NUJ 246NUJ guidelines on reporting poverty 

From a pack and a film produced by National Union of Journalists and Church Action on Poverty

At the end of July 2017, a film, made by the Reporter's Academy Pathway Programme and crowdfunded, was launched to emphasise guidelines for journalists to use when reporting poverty. This builds on a pack for journalists, which was launched in April 2016, to help them think about poverty, the welfare system, the people experiencing poverty, how their voices should be respected and how they should be portrayed in the media.

Some insights into that advice:

  • Don’t contribute to the idea that there are deserving and undeserving poor people – no one wants or deserves to live in poverty.
  • People living in poverty do not put themselves there by choice. There is no joy in going without meals or not having holidays, or seeing your kids go without new things.
  • It’s patronising to think people in receipt of benefits just need to be taught how to budget – limited money can only stretch so far.
  • Poverty is not just a lack of money, food, jobs, and so on, it’s also about a lack of opportunity.
  • See me as an individual, a person, a human being . Don’t think you can judge me or make your mind up about me without talking to me because I’m on benefits.
  • Words hurt. Reports can exacerbate problems and increase hate crimes.
  • Recognise that people living in poverty are human beings. People living in poverty have dignity.That humanity and dignity is taken away because of how the media portrays them.

Rachel Broady, Equality Officer Manchester and Salford Branch NUJ, says, "The guidelines have been brought together by the National Union of Journalists in Manchester and Salford, working with Church Action on Poverty, also based in Salford. So this isn't journalists telling other journalists what they need to do, or trade unionists telling other people what they need to do. This is people who have experienced poverty explaining to journalists how they can better report the experience."

The guidelines themselves:

  • The NUJ believes that the development of discriminatory language and the demonisation of the working poor and benefit recipients, through the use of stereotypes and misinformation, is an insult to workers, trade union organisations and readers.
  • The NUJ believes that its members as trade unionists cannot avoid a measure of responsibility in fighting stereotypes of the working poor and benefit recipients as expressed through the mass media.
  • The NUJ reaffirms its total opposition to censorship, but equally reaffirms its belief that press freedom must be conditioned by responsibility, and a resolution by all media workers not to allow press freedom to be abused to slander a section of the community.
  • The NUJ believes that newspapers and magazines should not originate material which encourages discrimination on grounds of being working poor or a benefit recipient.
  • The NUJ believes that editors should ensure that coverage of social security stories should be placed in a balanced context.
  • The NUJ will continue to monitor the development of media coverage in this area and give support to members seeking to enforce the above aims.

Gavin Aitchison of Church Action on Poverty comments, "The great thing about these guidelines that have been produced on poverty reporting is that they have, at their heart, the voice of people in poverty. That's immensely useful for journalists. Most journalists, I think, would welcome that. In my previous role at The Press newspaper in York, we were involved in a two year poverty awareness campaign. Very much at the centre of that campaign were people in York who had experienced poverty, or were experiencing poverty. I think our readers and local organisations welcomed that and were more receptive to the campaign because, it had at its heart, real people, our readers, their neighbours, local residents."

Download the Guidelines here.

Watch the 7 min film here:

If you are in touch with the local press, perhaps you can let your contacts know about this resource? If you see an article that does not follow the guidelines, perhaps you can let the journalist know about the guidelines?

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From a pack and a film produced by National Union , 01/08/2017

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