NUJ condems use of “chavs” and “skiver” as launches guidelines for reporting on the impoverished

The NUJ has launched guidelines for journalists reporting on those living in poverty, saying the language used by some sections of the media “isn’t acceptable”.

A Guide to Reporting in Poverty has been published by the NUJ in partnership with the Christian social justice charity Church Action on Poverty.

The guidelines have been put together on the back of interviews with men and women who receive benefits, both in and out of work.

It condemns the use of words such as “chavs”, “skiver” and “feckless” when reporting on those living in poverty.

Rachel Broady, NUJ equality officer for the Manchester and Salford branch, who wrote the guidelines and carried out the interviews, said: “The language used to describe people living in poverty isn’t acceptable. We can’t allow it to become the norm.

“It’s important for journalists that we regularly stop to think how what is written could potentially demonise sections of our society. People experiencing poverty are not our enemy and their stories should be reported fairly and accurately.”

As an example of inappropriate language used in reporting, Broady pointed to the Daily Mail’s reporting of the father of 17 children  Mick Philpott, who was found guilty of killing six of his children.

The Daily Mail article dubbed Philpott a “vile product of welfare UK” when reporting on his conviction.

Daily Mirror Real Britain columnist Ros Wynne-Jones joined the NUJ in launching the guidelines.

She said: “As the report says, poor people are actually the poverty experts. Viewing them as ‘case studies’ demeans people as human beings.  They are living through welfare reform, through austerity , through poverty.

“They may be experiencing the bedroom tax, or be insecure in work, they have addictions to be homeless, or be in debt, or they just be unlucky- something that can happen to any of us.

“in the course of writing around 150 columns, I have come to the conclusion bad luck is the most common denominator separating the live of people in poverty from mine.

“Unfair reporting doesn’t just damage lives, it damages all of us as journalists. That’s why these poverty reporting guidelines are in my view such as a breakthrough for our industry. It’s why we need to take a stand.”

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