Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2019

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School




Program or Major


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Lisa Miller


The AP Stylebook, a guide used by many journalism organizations to inform editorial decision making, says identifiers such as race should be included in news stories when "pertinent." But how do we determine when an identifier is pertinent? My analysis of news stories demonstrates that sometimes identifiers can suggest a causal relation between an identity and an event. For example, journalists will identify race in any story involving a white police officer shooting a black suspect, even if the facts of the story suggest that the shooting was justified. Journalists also widely reported the sexual orientation of the victims in the Pulse nightclub shooting, although it later emerged the perpetrator was not aware that Pulse was known as a gay club. The dilemma journalists face – whether to include identifiers or not in their coverage – arises from an unavoidable lack of hindsight and the power of identifiers to shape public thought. Using their best news judgement, journalists must decide whether to withhold facts to avoid implying a false correlation, or to deliver the facts and risk misleading their readers. With this in mind, I analyze high profile news stories from two of the most-circulated and influential newspapers, The Washington Post and The New York Times, to study the impact of including or withholding identifiers such as race and sexual orientation. Following that analysis, I will offer a creed journalism organizations should include in their code of ethics.