Open Enrollment | Subscribe to Publishing Executive HERE
Connect
Follow us on
Advertisement
 
Senior Editor

Pub Talk

By James Sturdivant

About James

 

Media Vent

Bob Sacks
Thought’s on the IMAG-MPA Conference And a Love Letter From Samir Husni
May 22, 2015

Professor Samir Husni and I both love the magazine industry, yet we come to that affection from completely different directions....



Industry Insiders

The Insiders
The Unintended Consequences of Data Targeting
May 8, 2015

Every brand is attempting to deliver a unique experience for every single person it engages with. This is not a...



Publishers' Dojo

Linda Ruth
How To "Onboard" Your Audience
May 12, 2015

Publisher should act as "mentor" or "guide" to new audience members that arrive at their sites. Whether or not you...



B2B Beat

Andy Kowl
The Growth of Marijuana Business Media
May 7, 2015

The first trade magazine I launched, Paraphernalia & Accessories Digest, served the headshop industry. I had cofounded High Times four years earlier,...



The Digital Market

Thea Selby
Top 5 Trends Affecting App Publishing
Mar 9, 2015

This is a great time of the year to look at the top trends of 2014 and gain insights for...



The AP Takes a Stand for Clarity

1
 

The Associated Press has recently altered its stylebook for journalists to discourage the use of the terms "homophobia" and "ethnic cleansing" in news reporting. I agree strongly with both of these recommendations. Ethnic cleansing is, as AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told Politico, a euphemism for activities that are "pretty violent" and should not be in any way glossed over. What began (in the context of Bosnia as I recall) as a darkly ironic term for mass killing and displacement has, unfortunately, entered the lexicon as a general description for the same. If people want to refer to what went on in Darfur as "ethnic cleansing" they are free to do so, but journalists should not whitewash such events with vagueness.

The decision to discourage "homophobia" is much dicier, and has led to no small amount of discussion and controversy. I think Minthorn is correct that, because a phobia is a clinical term for a "an irrational, uncontrollable fear," it should not be used to casually describe opponents of gay rights. I have always been uncomfortable with the term as a type of political hyperbole meant to pigeonhole as much as describe; in journalistic contexts, it certainly does not connote objectivity.

One of the main arguments made against the AP's decision is that most anti-gay activists are motivated by fear, and that this level of fear does, in fact, border on the pathological. This may be true for some, but certainly not all, people who take a position against, say, gay marriage—and does not in any way justify its use in news reporting. Can any thoughtful journalist really be comfortable with branding all of those in California who voted for Proposition 8 (limiting the definition of marriage between a man and a woman) with the label homophobic? Many of them are Hispanic Catholics with deep cultural grounding in the idea of marriage as a holy sacrament. You can disagree with them; you can (as I would) wish to argue the distinction between religious and civil marriage, but you cannot call them pathological. If you do, what's the point of even trying to dialogue with them?

On the other side is the argument that a non-clinical use of the suffix "-phobia" has entered the lexicon in many contexts—"Francophobia," "Islamophobia," "xenophobia," etc.—and that "homophobia" should, as many of these other terms are, be considered normative. It's important to remember here that we are talking about standards for news reporting, not general discourse. I would be no more comfortable with the terms "xenophobic" or "Francophobic" applied to people described in news articles (outside of quotes) than I am with "homophobic." Leave these subjective terms to the political stump or the editorial page; they have no place in straight journalism.

 

1

COMMENTS

Click here to leave a comment...
Comment *
Most Recent Comments: