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Senior Editor

Pub Talk

By James Sturdivant

About James

 

Publishers' Dojo

Linda Ruth
Classic Print Business Models Influence Convergent Media: CNOW.tv Adopts a Magazine Subscription Model
Apr 18, 2014

Like everyone else in our business, I get drawn in to the ongoing conversation about this dying and that dying....



Publisher's Paradox

Andrew Davis
Publisher's Paradox: Leveraging Email to Inspire Action
Apr 7, 2014

Instead of sending your audience passive content, send your audience something they can take action on. If you read last...



Media Vent

Bob Sacks
It's Not All Good News for Magazine Publishers
Apr 1, 2014

Sometimes I just have to put the tequila aside and deliver a sobering report to the industry to offset some...



Industry Insiders

The Insiders
Publishers: Take a Lesson from the Louvre
Mar 21, 2014

Today, few premium publishers can compete with the rest of the Internet. But being the most trusted source of news and...



B2B Beat

Andy Kowl
What Bloggers Can Teach B2B
Jan 23, 2014

Blogs were pronounced dead in Fast Company in December of 2012 and in New Republic in April of 2013. And just before the New...



The Digital Market

Thea Selby
A Critique Of Yahoo's Digital Magazine Strategy
Jan 14, 2014

Small Business Trends writer Shawn Hessinger and I have a completely different view of the news that Yahoo was starting...



Profit from Publishing!

Thaddeus B. Kubis
Media Conference Exhibitors Should Go Deeper to Engage
Oct 9, 2013

It has been a few weeks since I attended (as the guest of the event organizer) the Publishing Business Conference...



The AP Takes a Stand for Clarity

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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.

 

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