We created these style guidelines for media practitioners in the professions of journalism, entertainment media, advertising, and public relations to offer concrete guidance for how to cover and represent nonhuman animals in a fair, honest, and respectful manner in accordance with professional ethical principles. Given the scope of industrialized animal oppression and environmental crisis globally, we believe fellow animals, as sentient living beings, warrant not only increased attention in media and popular culture, but coverage that encourages human society to transform our relationships with various animal species in ways that foster less domination and exploitation and more respect, care, and ecological responsibility. The lives and habitats of the world’s animals are largely dependent on the cultural values and worldviews promoted in the media, such as encouraging humans to identify as animals ourselves.
We subtitled this “A Style Guide for Giving Voice to the Voiceless” based on the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethical mandate for journalists to be a “voice for the voiceless.” We don’t mean to imply that nonhuman animals lack a voice of their own or abilities to communicate. But they do rely on humans, media producers especially, to amplify that voice for society, not only by allowing animals to speak for themselves via audio-visual media but also by selecting appropriate human spokespeople to ensure animals’ interests are more frequently and fairly included in popular culture. Let’s open our minds and hearts to start listening to the more-than-human world to which we belong.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Debra Merskin, PhD
Full Professor, School of Journalism & Communication, University of Oregon
Dr. Merskin is a teacher and scholar who is committed to removing the veil from representations of any and all beings who are shown in limited and limiting ways. She has published multiple journal articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries on media representations of constructed “Others” in American media. This includes animals other than human. Her theoretical emphasis is stereotypes, representational ethics, and speciesism. Her first book, Media, Minorities, & Meaning: A Critical Introduction (Peter Lang, 2010) looks below the surface of media content to explore the psychological, social, and economic underpinnings of a system of beliefs that result in prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. Designed to raise awareness of the foundations of historically-based inequities in the American social, cultural, and economic milieu, the book illustrates how inequalities are maintained, at least in part, by mass media, popular culture, and advertising representations.
Her second book, Sexing the Media: How and Why We Do It (Peter Lang, 2014) explores how media and other social institutions use sex and sexuality (the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses) to advance economic and ideological interests. Cinema, music, music videos, television programs, advertising, and the Internet are discussed as carriers of deliberately constructed messages that contribute to and support a master narrative that privileges heterosexuality and monogamy. Dr. Merskin’s latest book explores the intersectionality of species, race, and sex. See her work at http://works.bepress.com/debra_merskin
In addition to an earlier career in advertising, Dr. Merskin is active in studying animals and psychology. She has completed coursework for a second PhD in ecological psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She is active in the animal welfare community.
Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Georgia State University
Dr. Freeman is a teacher in media studies and a critical/cultural studies media researcher who has published in over 15 scholarly books and journals on media ethics, strategic communication for activists, environmental communication, and critical animal studies, with a specialty in animal agribusiness and veganism. Her first book is Framing Farming: Communication Strategies for Animal Rights. In 2015 she co-edited (along with Nuria Almiron & Matthew Cole) the anthology Critical Animal and Media Studies: Communication for Nonhuman Animal Advocacy. She is particularly interested in identifying the role of values and ideology in communication about animals and nature, and deconstructing the human/animal dualism. Read her work at http://works.bepress.com/carrie_freeman/
In addition to a previous career in non-profit public relations and corporate professional development and training, Dr. Freeman has been active in the animal rights and vegetarian movement for two decades, serving as a volunteer director for local grassroots groups in Florida, Georgia, and Oregon. She currently co-hosts an environmental radio program (In Tune to Nature) and an animal rights program (Second Opinion Radio) on Atlanta’s indie station WRFG- Radio Free Georgia.
For citation purposes, this page was last updated September 2016