The language of migration: refugee vs. migrant

A file photo of a Syrian refugee carrying a baby over the broken border fence into Turkey after breaking the border fence and crossing from Syria in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)What is the difference between a migrant and a refugee, and which term describes a person crossing the Mediterranean Sea seeking asylum in … Read More

Commentary: Does 'tonight' really mean 'tonight,' tonight?

Screenshot from ABC World News Tonight.It's a common ploy in news writing -- using a time reference like "tonight," "this morning," or "overnight" to give a story an air of immediacy. But is it needed? And is it accurate? Sometimes it is needed. For instance: "the decision announced this morning..." when it really was announced this morning and … Read More

When the President uses the n-word, please quote him without those dashes

This is a file photo of Barack Obama from 2006. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)When judging whether or not to use taboo language, editors wisely consider the identity of the speaker and the context of the speech. So I hope that the use of the n-word by the President of the United States in a podcast interview about racism will allow … Read More

Church shooting: Choose your words carefully

This image has been provided by the Charleston Police Department.(Charleston Police Department via AP)I wanted to share some thoughts prompted by an email I got this morning by Matt Jaworowski, a Media General Digital Content Producer. Matt noticed a barrage of social media comments wondering why journalists are not using the word “terrorist” to describe the man who … Read More

Al Jazeera memo illustrates the importance of word choice

I’ve spent a lot of time and space over the last decade thinking and writing about political language, propaganda, censorship, and banned and taboo words. Every time the language wars begin heating up (illegal alien vs. undocumented worker), I find myself reverting to a set of first principles: What is the literal meaning of the questionable word or phrase? Does … Read More

Stuart Scott was a master codeswitcher and we're all better for it

ESPN commentator Stuart Scott, 2013 (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)Stuart Scott, the ESPN anchor, is gone, dead of cancer at the age of 49.  He leaves behind a splendid legacy in sports journalism, one that has shaped me as a fan, a writer, and an American.  Scott was a master of what is called “code switching,” that quality of … Read More