Caitlin Hernández

Reporter, L.A. Explained • Southern California Public Radio
Last edited August 10, 2022

“My goal is to see the industry improve across editorial decisions, hiring and ethical standards. A key part of these areas is to have a strong foundation in diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

2022 MJ Bear Fellowship Project

Dialogue, KPCC/LAist’s public-facing and participatory style guide, began in 2021. I’ve worked closely with Ashley Alvarado to lead, maintain, and shape the future of this project from its inception to now. In action, that means I have innovated processes that push transparency forward, maintained its digital presense on by writing and researching new entries, and have ensured that staff and community input is incorporated every step of the way. Style guides can often turn into a static handbook, but words are much more fluid. They have the power to shape how communities see our newsroom and they feel seen (or not) by us. To bridge that gap, Dialogue is meant to be reflective of the language we hear in Southern California with strong ethics and inclusion. That is why anyone on the guide’s landing page can provide input on each section. I have documented this new workflow thoroughly on KPCC/LAist’s engagement section on Medium so that newsrooms can adapt it for themselves. Why have we made the style guide public-facing and participatory? How journalists write shouldn’t be a “secret sauce” — there is a formula to a lot of what is written or said in stories. Through Dialogue, readers have another way to see KPCC/LAist’s values and check how they’re being applied. Additionally, the interactive aspect ensures community members have a clear way to send feedback, which in turn makes the guide more relevant. In the next phase of this project, increasing transparency and access in creative ways are key. The guide’s revision history is public, which aids the public’s ability to hold our newsroom accountable. More recently, I have begun incorporating digital elements that bring style decisions into daily coverage in an explanatory manner. (Note: The additional project link contains an example of this for reproductive care langauge.) I want readers who question why we’re using a word over another (e.g. “uprising” instead of “riot”) to have a clear answer quickly. Through leveraging small text boxes, readers can see in real-time how style decisions are being applied.