AP Stylebook changes rule on “illegal immigrant”

On Tuesday, the Associated Press announced a change to its stylebook indicating that its writers should no longer use the term “illegal immigrant” to refer to someone living in a country illegally. The change affects more than just A.P. staffers. Many journalism outlets and independent writers depend on the Associated Press Stylebook to set the standard for terminology and punctuation ethics in the craft.

According to Jim Romenesko, senior vice president and executive editor Kathleen Carroll said that the term “illegal” “should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”

Carroll said the decision came after extensive discussions including people “from many walks of life,” which caused them to realize their acceptance of “illegal immigrant” was imprecise and not consistent with their standards for other topics like mental health issues, which require writers to use credibly sourced diagnoses instead of labels.

“Will the new guidance make it harder for writers?” Carroll asked. “Perhaps just a bit at first. But while labels may be more facile, they are not accurate.”

NY Post and Tampa Bay Times Get Blamed for Deaths

Another tasteful NY Post cover. (Flickr Creative Commons: extrabox)

The New York Post came under fire Tuesday when it published a front-page image of a man about to get run over by a subway train.  The front page had the Post-style sensationalized headline: “Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die / DOOMED.”  The photographer was criticized for not helping the man, while the Post offended many with what they deemed to be distasteful editorial treatment of a sensitive image.

Though these kinds of journalism ethics have been around since before the Internet was even an idea, the story raises questions about how the web will perhaps provide different ethical standards for photojournalism.  The kind of outrage that the Post’s editorial board faces will probably pale as more publications learn to coexist with the (mostly) censor-free online world.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Times has been blamed for the suicide of a 39-year-old woman with “persistent genital arousal disorder” the paper ran a profile about last week, according to Jim Romenesko.  “The moment I read this story I questioned why it was being published by the Times,” said a frequent Tamba Bay Times critic, “other than the story’s obvious ability to drive readership and online traffic.”

Clark Kent Quits the Daily Planet

The Daily Planet gets zapped. (Flickr Creative Commons: arellis49)

Clark Kent quits the Daily Planet in the latest issue of Superman by regaling the fictional paper staff with a well-timed speech about the mores of journalism.  “Go easy on us mortals, Clark.  Times are changing and print is a dying medium,” one of his colleagues replies.

Superman’s alter ego seems to be  four or five years behind on sentimentality for the sanctity of print news.  Jim Romenesko quoted the comic’s writer as saying “this is really what happens when a 27-year-old guy is behind a desk and he has to take instruction from a larger conglomerate with concerns that aren’t really his own.”

Here continues the morass of pop culture representation of journalists as either moralistic anti-capitalist crusaders or soul-sucking wretches who smoke cigars.  Also, Clark Kent doesn’t have to worry much about his backup plan: his moonlighting gig is pretty solid.

The comments on Romenesko’s post on this were pretty smart, too.  See: “Quitting?  In reality, he’d be a victim of staff cuts…”