The Northern Star Editorial Board is reaffirming its commitment to the use of gender-neutral terms and its policy of asking sources for preferred pronouns.
In 2015, the Northern Star adopted a policy in which reporters are required to ask sources for their preferred pronoun. If this information was not obtained by the reporter, the editors will avoid the use of pronouns by adhering to the use of the source’s last name rather than assume their pronoun.
“The Northern Star recognizes the responsibility journalists have to educate and inform the public while being fair and accurate in the representation of sources,” according to a March 2, 2015, Northern Star Editorial.
As years have passed and staff members from 2015 have since graduated, the current Editorial Board wants to ensure this policy is not forgotten.
In keeping with this policy and the idea of fair and accurate journalism, the Board also examined our house style. The Northern Star’s house style consists of rules, unique to our publication, which reporters and editors follow when writing stories.
An example of Northern Star house style is the use of “alderperson” in place of “alderman” when referring to members of DeKalb City Council.
While the state Municipal Code does use the term “alderman”, the Northern Star has made the choice to use “alderperson” in our house style as it is a more gender-neutral title.
The debate over the use of this title extends beyond the Northern Star. The Council has debated this matter before, but unfortunately, the motion to change from “alderman” to “alderperson” never carried, according to an April 30, 2012 Northern Star article.
A concern voiced by council members in 2012, when a motion was made to change to “alderperson”, was voter confusion. Then, Sixth Ward Alderperson David Baker said changing titles to “alderperson” would be “confusing”, as he ran for the office of alderman, according to the 2012 Northern Star article.
The Editorial Board considers this concern trivial. We have confidence in the intelligence of DeKalb voters and trust they could discern the connection between “alderman” and alderperson.
Cities in Wisconsin such as Wasau, Appleton and Hartford use the term “alderperson” in reference to their council members. We invite City Council to reconsider making this change as well.
Whether the Council changes its title choice or not, the Northern Star will continue to use its house style and look for more ways to better serve our readers.