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People from Indian Subcontinent

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    People from Indian Subcontinent

    Krishnan M. Anantharaman, The Wall Street Journal

    There's an old saying that if you assemble three South Asians, they'll form two organizations. It's meant to be a self-mocking statement about how disunited some South Asian communities can be. But it also says a lot about how diverse the region is, and why, for journalists, the task of covering South Asian people and communities--in the Subcontinent or in the diaspora--can be fascinating and very tricky.

    It's important to understand that just as South Asia is not monolithic, neither is any one ethnic, racial, religious or other community in South Asia.

    Two Hindus of the same caste who live in the same village might follow different religious practices, and celebrate their holidays at different times, or for different reasons. In southern India, three brothers might have different last names. An Indian and a Pakistani might be brother and sister, separated decades ago by the partition that gave birth to Pakistan. Caste hierarchies may be strictly adhered to in one village, and ignored altogether in another.

    Our mission is not to promote "positive" coverage of South Asia and South Asians or to politicize journalism. Readers and viewers expect and deserve better than that. Instead, we believe in the reporter's right and obligation to make judgments, be they positive, negative or neutral, based on an accurate understanding of history and facts. That, in a nutshell, is one definition of "fair" journalism. Without good facts, we can't make sound judgments.

    The stylebook we've assembled here is not so much a reference work as it is as a reminder--a reminder to journalists that covering the disparate South Asian communities challenges us to take our reporting and editing skills a step further. To transcend the assumptions, stereotypes and generalizations that normally make our jobs easier; to ask sharper questions; and to make our reports, written or broadcast, as specific and accurate as possible. It will not only improve the quality of coverage of South Asia and its people, but also make us better journalists. -- KMA