The guidelines, set out by the National Union of Journalists, also advise reporters to learn more about the benefits system – and use the term “recipient” rather than “claimant” when writing about it.
The use of 20 phrases including “sponger”, “skiver”, “dole dossers”, “scroungers” and “chavs” – cited as derogatory terms currently used to describe people in poverty – are also discouraged.
The guidelines are outlined in a report entitled ‘A Guide to Reporting Poverty’, produced by the NUJ’s Manchester & Salford branch in conjunction with the charity Church Action on Poverty.
Its key findings include:.
- Journalists should not “judge” people just because they are benefits.
- Labels such as lazy, cheating, skiving, feckless and anti-social portray people as having no value.
- People living in poverty risk having their “humanity and dignity” taken away because of how the media portrays them.
- Journalists need to realise that the majority of people suffering poverty did not put themselves in that situation by choice.
Rachel Broady, the branch’s equality officer, 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 journalism and 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.”
The experiences of with men and women in receipt of benefits, both in and out of work, were gathered in interviews prior to the report’s publication.