Ethics Hero: The Associated Press

BB is not pleased with the AP this day…

A bit more of this kind of thing will have me back on my feet in no time:

The Associated Press has changed its style book to oppose some euphemisms and loaded words. From Politico:

“The online Style Book now says that ‘-phobia,’ ‘an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness’ should not be used ‘in political or social contexts,’  including ‘homophobia’ and ‘Islamophobia.’ It also calls ‘ethnic cleansing” a ‘euphemism,’ and says the AP ‘does not use “ethnic cleansing” on its own. It must be enclosed in quotes, attributed and explained.’ ‘Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities, a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don’t feel that’s quite accurate,’ AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO. ‘When you break down ‘ethnic cleansing,’ it’s a cover for terrible violent activities. It’s a term we certainly don’t want to propagate,’ Minthorn continued. ‘Homophobia especially — it’s just off the mark. It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case. We want to be precise and accurate and neutral in our phrasing,’ he said.”

For any significant member of the mainstream media to pledge to be “precise and accurate and neutral” in its use of words is a wonderful development, and flagging euphemisms and cover phrases, as well as other words that carry pejorative meanings along with their descriptive uses, is an excellent trend to start.

On the Politico website, a commenter who is described as from “Harvard University” weighs in with a nice pedantic objection that the suffix “-phobic” of “-phobia,” unlike the word, is often used to mean aversions that fall short of irrational or deranged. I have two observations on that. One is that “-phobia” always carries the hint of illness, mental instability, or fanatacism, even if it is not intended, which certainly justifies its disqualification for news reporting.

The other is that the commenter with the Harvard Facebook marker is no more commenting from Old Ivy than I am. His Facebook profile says that he graduated from the Harvard College in 1963. I really hate it when people use degrees, especially prestige degrees, that way. His 50-year-old Harvard degree gives his opinion no more legitimate weight in the argument over “-phobia” than it does in the debate over whether Miguel Cabrera deserved the American League MVP Award, which is to say, none at all.


Pointer: Best of the Web

Facts: Politico

7 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: The Associated Press

  1. Two posts in less than five hours. You’re either

    a) incredibly bored
    b) feeling better
    c) getting psychotic
    d) a) and b) are correct
    e) a), b) and c) are correct

    Hoping it’s d). Feel better, amigo.

  2. Wow.

    I am impressed and second the motion for heroes.

    I’m a firm believer in strict definitions of words. Otherwise how can we trust the messages we attempt to send and how can we trust the messages we receive if we know sender or receiver do not use words as per their definitions – either through ignorance or intentional misuse.

    I’ve had someone speak gibberish to me. To which I inquired, “what?”. The response being “you know what I mean.”

    The “you know what I mean” response always is an invitation for me to launch into a tirade on why definitions are important–unfortunately that lesson falls on deaf ears for a person who didn’t understand or care to understand meanings to begin with.

    Another bothersome individual always followed their sentences with “does that make sense?” I have patience for this when someone has attempted to convey a complicated set of instructions to me. However, when every sentence is concluded with “does that make sense”, I almost can’t help but launch into another tirade about definitions.

    I particularly revile the invention of words or phrases to mislead or skew anyone’s image of something by unfair or malicious connotations or implications. Which thankfully the AP has at least officially condemned.

  3. One is that “-phobia” always carries the hint of illness, mental instability, or fanatacism, even if it is not intended, which certainly justifies its disqualification for news reporting

    What, Never? Hardly ever.

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