Guardian assistant news editor Erin McCann says she “was apoplectic” when she saw AP’s captions for a story on immigrant children in Border Patrol facilities. It was a “disturbing, slanted and nearly unethical choice to call the young people held in these facilities not children but something else: ‘detainees,’” she writes.
Children color at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas, on June 18. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)
“I am so angered by this because the language journalists use here matters,” McCann writes. “We are about to have a national debate about what to do with these children, and AP has already begun framing them as ‘the enemy.’”
Many news outlets preserved the term “detainees” in captions, McCann notes: “Either they didn’t notice, in which case they’re bad (or, ok, overworked, busy, multi-tasking) journalists, or they didn’t care, in which case they’re really bad journalists.”
McCann’s challenge to AP’s style comes a little more than a year after the news co-op changed its style on the term “illegal immigrant.” At the time, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll told Poynter the change came in part because of ongoing work at AP dedicated to “ridding the Stylebook of labels.”
The use of such labels, she said, “ends up pigeonholing people or creating long descriptive titles where you use some main event in someone’s life to become the modifier before their name.”
McCann didn’t ask AP for comment on her opinion piece, a decision Paul Colford, AP’s director of media relations, called “Unfortunate” in an email to Poynter.… Read more