(Image: Gorkie/Private Media)

I’ve been a public intellectual and political activist for decades. In that time, I’ve watched with horrified fascination at the haphazard way the media alights on words and visuals to describe and illustrate important social and political phenomenon. Like the ubiquitous photo of an enormous baby bump to accompany every story on abortion, despite around 92% of terminations in Australia taking place within 14 weeks, when visible signs of pregnancy are scant.

In the traditional media age, academics and activists could shape coverage by distributing training manuals to mainstream media outlets or encouraging the Australian Press Council to develop specific reporting standards, as happened in regard to media coverage of suicide.

But today such interventions aren’t enough. Why? Because in the age of social media, we’re all broadcasters and distributors of news. Which means that we all have the power -- and must accept the responsibility -- to choose accurate and illuminating terms to describe the things that matter most.