June 19, 2020

The Associated Press announced Friday afternoon it’s changing its style to capitalize Black when referring to it in a racial, ethnic or cultural way — a move newsrooms across the United States have made in recent weeks.

AP Vice President for Standards John Daniszewski wrote Friday that AP would also capitalize Indigenous in reference to original inhabitants of a place. The changes follow suit of standards AP has set in other racial and ethnic identifiers, such as Latino, Asian American and Native American.

“Our discussions on style and language consider many points, including the need to be inclusive and respectful in our storytelling and the evolution of language,” Daniszewski wrote. “We believe this change serves those ends.”

AP determines the writing style news organizations across the United States follow, though other newsrooms have decided to capitalize Black in recent weeks. Organizations such as The Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News, The Seattle Times and MSNBC previously announced individually their style would change to capitalize Black. The Seattle Times made the change in 2019.

Daniszewski said the change came after two years of in-depth research and discussion. This latest style change joins the AP Stylebook’s section on race-related coverage guidance, which encourages thoughtful consideration, precise language and an openness to discussion with underrepresented identities about how to frame coverage accurately and appropriately.

AP also noted, “As a global news organization, we are continuing to discuss within the U.S. and internationally whether to capitalize the term white. Considerations are many and include any implications that doing so might have outside the United States.”

Doris Truong, director of training and diversity at Poynter, pointed to how Black newsrooms have set this style precedent for ages, but legacy newsrooms have been slow to change.

“Why do we need this change? The words Asian, Hispanic, Latinx and Native American are already proper nouns. African American does not represent the lineage of all Black people,” Truong said.

“For all the newsrooms waiting on AP to set the example, there’s no excuse,” Truong continued. “Capitalize Black.”

Nicole Asbury is a senior at the University of Kansas, studying journalism and women, gender and sexuality studies. She can be reached at news@poynter.org or on Twitter @NicoleAsbury.

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