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How Journalists Can Handle Racist Language in the Wake of Charlottesville Violence

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The Internet blew up in the wake of the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and journalists and other content creators writing about the violence should choose their words carefully.

According to the Poynter Institute, the precision of language is crucial; writers should avoid “subjective adjectives and unclear labels,” such as “far-right” or “far-left,” instead describing specifically what protesters were doing or saying.

It is appropriate to call the counter-protesters such, according to Poynter, but premature to label as a “terrorist act” the individual who plowed his car into the counter-protesters. This is because not enough is yet known about the driver’s intent.

It’s also important not to assume your audience understands things you might know, Poynter writes.

For example, not everyone knows the backgrounds of the KKK, National Socialist Movement, or Aryan Nationalist Alliance — some of the groups that participated in the Charlottesville protests.

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