Back in 2010, the University of North Carolina’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, was approached by roughly 30 students with a petition containing over 430 signatures that demanded that the paper use gender neutral terms-  chairperson instead of chairman, first-year instead of freshman.

This week the paper decided to make the change to gender neutral terms.

“We don’t really believe in leaving things the same way just because it’s the way it’s always been, and now more than ever, we all see a pressing need to be inclusive in the way we write about people.” Paige Ladisic, editor of the paper said in a message explaining the decision.

These changes, like the Associated Press Stylebook, considered by many as the Bible of journalistic standards, seem to reflect society.

For example, Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant, tracked news media’s use of “illegal alien” to convince outlets to use the term “undocumented immigrant” instead.

But was the Daily Tar Heel in the right to make the change?

“Gender neutral titles have slowly been making their way into everyday usage for decades. For instance we don’t call a female flight attendant a ‘stewardess’ anymore,” Jason Parsley, Executive Editor of South Florida Gay News said in an interview. “As for ‘chairperson’ there doesn’t need to be separate terms for men and woman because both positions are equal.  Men and women are equal. Period. And ultimately that’s what this gender neutral movement is all about.”

Marimar Toledo, a 20 year old freelance journalist also supports the use of gender neutral usage, because it was more respectful to people in the LGBT community.

“You’re just never gonna know- and just to be on the safe side, and be on the respectful side, you should use the gender neutral terms, rather than the ones that specify which sex you are.”

While people may be of different opinions, The Daily Tar Heel‘s decision seems here to stay.

Rise News reached out to DTH editor Paige Ladisic and will update this story when she responds. 

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Cover Photo Credit: William Yeung/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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