A matter of words

In which, we go to Swanage

Last month, the Swanage Town Council made the decision to revert to using ‘chairman’ instead of the gender-neutral title ‘chair’, which it had been using so far. This move comes at a time when there is a growing debate on the issue of gender neutrality in language, and most organisations are travelling in the opposite direction.

Your Assignment

Using this news peg, explore gender-neutral language, with the specific purpose of demystifying and raising awareness about the wider debate and its signifance. Note: the focus should be on gender-neutral language per se (how it feeds into larger societal issues, how it can be addressed, etc).

Format and outputs

  • ONE in-depth story for Shorthand, which features — besides the larger context, controversies, and solutions — vox pops and interviews from Swanage. Each reporter is expected to do two interviews, in Humans of New York style, and each interview will be aimed at telling the story of the interviewee’s stance on GNL (why and how they arrived at whatever perspective they hold on it).
  • Two shortform videos for social media.


  • 3 May: fieldtrip to Swanage for reporting (most vox pops and interviews will take place on this day. You will need to reach out to key sources — eg, councillors — beforehand to organise your coverage. Ditto, experts on this topic, who can be from anywhere.
  • 5 May: finalise and publish the Shorthand feature and videos in class (10-1, WG12).

Next steps

  • We will work with FOUR editors. Two females and two males, please! Please agree on and let me know by 5pm tomorrow (27 March, Thursday).
  • Online briefing (30 minutes) for Editors on 28 March, Friday (we can arrange a mutually convenient time).
  • Get rolling. Do a wonderful job!

Travel arrangements & lunch

We will pay for your tickets to Swanage (on the Breezer 50, the open-decked bus) and lunch. 08:02 start from Bournemouth Bus Station, to arrive at Swanage at 09:05.


If you can’t make the trip for any reason, or prefer to get there yourself, then please let Mike and I know by Friday, 28 March, 5pm so that we can book tickets and making arrangments for lunch accordingly.

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