March 15, 2023
Providing Accessible Journalism by Katie Moreno
Yearbooks are a form of journalism as they document the events, people, and atmosphere of your school. Student journalists work tirelessly to capture the spirit of their school year with words and photographs, so it is important that student publications are accessible to all audiences.
Through meticulously compiled stories and images, the yearbook captures moments that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Moreover, these stories often serve as an important record for future generations to look back on. As such, yearbooks not only preserve memories but also provide insights into culture and history, making them a valuable part of journalism.
When teaching your students about the principles of journalism, it is essential to include accessibility as a critical component. When all voices are presented, your content can be consumed by people with diverse backgrounds, interests & abilities. By investing time into researching and understanding basic accessibility guidelines for journalists, we can ensure that our content reaches wider – and more meaningful – audiences than ever before.
Use Professional Standards as a Guide
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 provides a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. While these standards primarily focus on web content, the guidelines can be applied to all types of publications. By adhering to accessibility standards, student journalists can ensure that their stories are as inclusive as possible.
Use Plain Language
While creativity is encouraged overall, when it comes to the copy used in a journalistic publication, journalists should use plain language, avoiding jargon and acronyms in order to make their content easily understandable by all audiences. This can sometimes be a challenge for students, as they are typically encouraged to elaborate, use advanced vocabulary, and get creative when writing for other subjects. But in journalism, simpler is better.
Be Intentional With Your Font Decisions
It is important to select fonts that are legible and place them in a way that is easy to read. Be sure to consider font choice, size, and use colors that provide comfortable contrast so the reader does not have to strain to read the text.
For instance, using light colored text on a dark background can be a really interesting design element, but it makes your copy harder to read. If using a colored background, you’ll need to increase the font size to improve legibility.
Similarly, serif fonts are generally easier to read in small sizes, as the serifs serve as a guide from one letter to the next.
Color choices also play a large role in your content being accessible to all audiences.
Contrast isn’t the only consideration that matters when it comes to color. Your theme colors also must play nice together when it comes to how your copy is displayed.
It is wise to create a matrix of all your theme’s colors to see how they pair together. Decide as a staff which combos are acceptable and which ones you want to avoid.
While it may take some extra effort on your part, remember that taking these small steps to make your book more accessible ensures everyone can benefit from access to the content regardless of their visual impairments.
Build a Publication Staff That Reflects Your Student Body
Diversity in your staff is essential to ensure that stories are told from a variety of perspectives. Aiming for diversity in the newsroom helps promote a more inclusive environment and encourages everyone to bring their unique point of view to the table. A diverse team also leads to better coverage, as journalists with different backgrounds can write stories from multiple angles and use sources from diverse communities.
Ultimately, making the effort for increased diversity on your staff helps encourage the student body to engage with your student media program.
If your student media department produces video content, be sure to include subtitles. Even viewers who are not hearing impaired often use subtitles to increase comprehension, and it’s typically a very easy feature to add. Most video hosts (such as YouTube) provide this as a standard feature.
Subtitles help to transcribe the audio that is found in spoken words, and transcription allows the viewer to quickly scan or read through text for a quick overview of the key points within a journalist’s video. In addition, transcription can also be used to improve search engine optimization by making it easier to find a journalist’s videos when they are looking for more information on a topic.
Accessibility is a Necessity
Accessibility is an important and necessary component of any student journalism program. By adhering to accessibility guidelines, student journalists can ensure that their work is informative and engaging for all readers regardless of ability or disability. Implementing accessibility measures gives student journalists the foundation they need to craft articles that are accurate, ethical, and meaningful to all audiences.