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The Times launches new guidelines for language around crime and policing

Los Angeles Times building
The Los Angeles Times headquarters in El Segundo.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The changes are part of a continuing effort to examine and improve our journalism, especially around coverage of communities of color.

To our readers:

The death of George Floyd and the months of introspection that followed launched an important discussion here at the Los Angeles Times and in the communities we cover. We have been examining how we reflect diverse communities and the way we respond to breaking news involving race, policing and protests.

An important part of that effort is an examination of the language we use in our breaking news coverage, particularly around crime and policing.

Those discussions already have led to new guidelines to stop using the vague term “officer-involved” as it relates to shootings and other incidents. Instead, we will report details of such encounters — and, if those circumstances are unknown, we will be clear about that with our readers, viewers and listeners.

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We also have put limits around our use of the word “looting” because of the racial connotation and history of the word. We use it now to refer to the crime of looting, which occurs during a state of emergency.

A newsroom committee headed by Stephanie Chavez and Carla Rivera, two of our most experienced editors, has been leading this internal reexamination, along with Angel Jennings, assistant managing editor for talent and culture, and deputy Joseph Serna. They also are reaching out to community groups to discuss ways we can improve our coverage.

This is just a beginning, of course. We are working across the newsroom to improve diversity in our sourcing. We also are committed to putting more reporters on the ground to report firsthand on breaking news and, to the greatest extent possible, not rely on others — whether government officials or reports on social media.

We also are boosting our coverage of inequity and communities of color, both in Southern California and Sacramento, as well as adding more diverse voices among our columnists and commentators. (We publish an annual report that readers can use to track our efforts to make our staff more diverse.)

Our commitment to fair and accurate reporting has not wavered in this process — indeed, it is the basis for this newsroom-wide reexamination.

We promise to update you as we make changes in what we report and how we report it. In the meantime, we’re always eager to hear from readers, so please feel free to reach out to readersrep@latimes.com.


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