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AP ‘Style’ Failing to Stop Media Use of ‘Illegal Immigrant’

In April of 2013, bowing to pro-illegal immigrant activists, the Associated Press announced that it would ban the use of “illegal immigrant” in its reporting. But despite the attempt to change the media culture, the term persists—sometimes even in Associated Press articles.

A recent Columbia Journalism Review article chronicled the AP’s attempt to ban the word to, in the words of AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll, avoid “labeling people.”

Once the AP passed its ban and rewrote its grammar and usage style book—a guide used widely across the media industry—many newspapers and media outlets began to follow suit and ban the use of the term. Some editors and media figures celebrated the AP’s move, claiming the decision would “put to rest” the question over whether the term is legitimately used.

But despite the early celebration, the article notes that the term is still in use. In fact, CJR even finds that the AP itself still uses the term.

“Alas, we are not perfect,” Paul Colford, an AP spokesman, told CJR. Colford described the news service’s recent use of the term as “lapses from AP style.”

The AP fancies itself the arbiter of grammar and good reporting, but even the Columbia Journalism Review understands that the effort to ban “illegal immigrant” was “clearly a concession to advocates for immigrants who argued it was offensive to describe a person or group of people as illegal.”

In the end, the CJR deems the activist effort only a partial success but notes that the effort continues.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.

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