This article appeared in the January 22, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/22 edition

The Monitor as partner, not gatekeeper

Jing Peng
Jaimi Lard (center) and Christine Dwyer (right) demonstrate Protactile, a new language being developed for the DeafBlind community, for Monitor multimedia producer Jingnan Peng.

Last Wednesday, we hoped we were doing the responsible thing. You might have seen the video we published on members of the DeafBlind community crafting a language that speaks to their remarkable talents and perception of the world. It was genuinely moving.

When it came to identifying the community, however, our style guides pointed us to “deaf-blind,” even though producer Jingnan Peng’s conversations with the community suggested the term was outdated. To many, “deaf-blind” is medical language that dwells on their condition and its seeming limitations. “DeafBlind” speaks of their ability and agency. The word choice was more than style, it was a statement of how we saw them.

Last week, we chose “deaf-blind.” This week, we have switched.

My first day in Journalism 101, my teacher told us we would decide what was news. We were the future information gatekeepers. That vision is all but gone. You all have Google now. What the Monitor can be is a partner, working with you to bring its unique gifts to your doorstep. And that means being a partner with those whom we report on, too – and listening to the best of what they have to say.

DeafBlind speaks to “who we are,” says Debra Visser Kahn, administrator of the DeafBlind Autonomy Facebook group. “It’s our cultural identity, and we feel it best represents our community.”

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This article appeared in the January 22, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/22 edition