September 30, 2011

The Society of Professional Journalists passed a resolution at its conference earlier this week urging journalists and style guide editors to stop using the term “illegal alien” and to reconsider using “illegal immigrant.” The resolution states that only a court can judge whether someone has “committed an illegal act,” and that “the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the increasing use of pejorative and potentially inaccurate terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.” SPJ president-elect Sonny Albarado said he hopes the resolution “shows people that journalists are concerned about being accurate when they refer to people, plus I hope it helps shape the discussion.”

The SPJ resolution doesn’t state what term journalists should use instead. The AP Stylebook states that “illegal immigrant” is the preferred term, rather than “illegal alien” or “undocumented worker,” and it tells journalists not to use “illegals.” || Related: reports increased use of “illegal” and “alien” in media coverage | Jose Antonio Vargas plans to report on immigration issues as he lobbies for policy changes | Vargas’ essay renews attention to media’s use of ‘illegal’ & ‘undocumented’

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Steve Myers was the managing editor of until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens,…
Steve Myers

More News

Back to News


Comments are closed.