Despite reported "updates" to "style," Wash. Times repeatedly refers to "illegals" in headlines

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

The Washington City Paper quoted from a 2008 "memo" from the "regime" of Washington Times executive editor John Solomon, which stated that as part of "recent updates to TWT style," "We will use illegal immigrants, not illegal aliens." Nonetheless, a Media Matters review indicates that in the past month alone, six Washington Times articles have referred to undocumented immigrants as "illegals" in their headline or subhead, while seven articles have been posted on the paper's website with "illegals" in their headline or subhead.

In a February 25, 2008, blog post, the Washington City Paper quoted from a "memo" from the "regime" of Washington Times executive editor John Solomon, which stated that as part of "recent updates to TWT style," "We will use illegal immigrants, not illegal aliens." Nonetheless, a Media Matters for America search of the Nexis news database indicates that in the past month alone, six Washington Times articles have referred to undocumented immigrants as "illegals" in their headline or subhead, while seven articles have been posted on the paper's website with "illegals" in their headline or subhead.

In a March 2006 press release, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) stated that it was "particularly troubled with the growing trend of the news media to use the word 'illegals' as a noun, shorthand for 'illegal aliens,' " adding: "Using the word in this way is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed. NAHJ calls on the media to never use 'illegals' in headlines." Similarly, in January 21, 2007, remarks at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast, National Council of La Raza President and CEO Janet Murguía called "illegals" "a term deftly used as a code word to hide prejudice."

In its press release, NAHJ wrote that "[i]llegal alien" and "[i]llegal" were terms to "[a]void." Additionally, NAHJ stated, "While many national news outlets use the term 'illegal immigrant,' this handbook calls for the discussion and re-evaluation of its use. Instead of using illegal immigrant, alternative labels recommended are 'undocumented worker' or 'undocumented immigrant.' " From the release:

Illegal alien

Avoid. Alternative terms are "undocumented worker," or "undocumented immigrant." The pertinent federal agencies use this term for individuals who do not have documents to show they can legally visit, work or live here. Many find the term offensive and dehumanizing because it criminalizes the person rather than the actual act of illegally entering or residing in the United States. The term does not give an accurate description of a person's conditional U.S. status, but rather demeans an individual by describing them as an alien. At the 1994 Unity convention, the four minority journalism groups -- NAHJ, Asian American Journalists Association, Native American Journalists Association and National Association of Black Journalists -- issued the following statement on this term: "Except in direct quotations, do not use the phrase illegal alien or the word alien, in copy or in headlines, to refer to citizens of a foreign country who have come to the U.S. with no documents to show that they are legally entitled to visit, work or live here. Such terms are considered pejorative not only by those to whom they are applied but by many people of the same ethnic and national backgrounds who are in the U.S. legally."

Illegal immigrant

While many national news outlets use the term "illegal immigrant," this handbook calls for the discussion and re-evaluation of its use. Instead of using illegal immigrant, alternative labels recommended are "undocumented worker" or "undocumented immigrant." Illegal immigrant is a term used to describe the immigration status of people who do not have the federal documentation to show they are legally entitled to work, visit or live here. People who are undocumented according to federal authorities do not have the proper visas to be in the United States legally. Many enter the country illegally, but a large number of this group initially had valid visas, but did not return to their native countries when their visas expired. Some former students fall into the latter category. The term criminalizes the person rather than the actual act of illegally entering or residing in the United States without federal documents. Terms such as illegal alien or illegal immigrant can often be used pejoratively in common parlance and can pack a powerful emotional wallop for those on the receiving end. Instead, use undocumented immigrant or undocumented worker, both of which are terms that convey the same descriptive information without carrying the psychological baggage. Avoid using illegal(s) as a noun.

Illegal

Avoid. Alternative terms are "undocumented immigrant" or "undocumented worker." This term has been used to describe the immigration status of people who do not have the federal documentation to show they are legally entitled to work, visit or live here. The term criminalizes the person rather than the actual act of illegally entering, residing in the U.S. without documents.

In her January 2007 remarks, Murguía stated:

I want to stop for a moment and say that, for the most part, these are hard-working people who have risked much to provide for their families. Many hold down two or three jobs to make ends meet. They are church-goers, people of faith. They are parents who care for their children and children who respect their elders. Every one of them would choose to be here legally if they could. The fact is our immigration system is broken. For people wanting to come here there is a 20-year backlog to legal entry -- if they can get in at all.

But, to the voices of hate ... they are only "illegals," a term deftly used as a code word to hide prejudice. These hard-working men and women are not separate from the Hispanic community. They're part of its fabric. Many Latino families have U.S. citizens, legal residents, and undocumented under the same roof. And you can't tell just by looking at us who is a citizen and who is not.

But while The Washington Times has reportedly altered its stylebook to use the term "illegal immigrants" rather than "illegal aliens," the paper has continued to use "illegals" in its headlines and subheads to refer to undocumented immigrants. According to a search of the Nexis database, examples from the past month include:

  • A March 5 article headlined "ICE program catches illegals on minor offenses"
  • A March 1 article headlined "Illegal population down slightly in U.S."
  • A February 26 article with the subhead "Rights groups see broken 'commitment' on illegals policy"
  • A February 26 article headlined "Illegals targeted sheriff as part of gang initiation"
  • A February 25 article with the subhead "Illegals' victims say cities liable"
  • A February 13 article headlined "Deported for drugs, illegal still sued Arizona rancher"

Likewise, several of the paper's articles posted on its website have referred to undocumented immigrants as "illegals" in their headlines or sub-headlines, including:

  • A March 5 article headlined "Minor offenses trip up illegals"
  • A February 26 article headlined "Illegals raid dismays Obama backers"
  • A February 26 article headlined "Illegals targeted sheriff as gang initiation"
  • A February 25 article with the subhead "Illegals' victims say cities liable"
  • A February 13 article headlined "Deported for drugs, illegal sues rancher"
  • A February 9 article headlined "16 illegals sue Arizona rancher"

Additionally, a March 7 Associated Press article was posted at WashingtonTimes.com under the headline, "Detention center for illegals sparks anger." The article appears in the Nexis database under the headline "Groups object to immigration detention in Va. town."

The Washington City Paper's February 25, 2008, blog post:

John Solomon took over the Washington Times on Jan. 28.

But he arrived today, via a message from the paper's copy operation.

The news, in short: No more scare quotes.

Longtime Washington Times readers know well what this is all about: Under the regime of Wesley Pruden, the Times, unwilling to acknowledge anything so radical and immoral as gay marriage, treated the term in its pages as gay "marriage."

Likewise other terms. In the old Washington Times, there were no illegal immigrants, just "illegal aliens"; no gays, just "homosexuals."

Now comes the following memo from the Solomon regime, wiping out this legacy in one flick of the wrist:

All:

Here are some recent updates to TWT style.

1) Clinton will be the headline word for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

2) Gay is approved for copy and preferred over homosexual, except in clinical references or references to sexual activity.

3) The quotation marks will come off gay marriage (preferred over homosexual marriage).

4) Moderate is approved, but centrist is still allowed.

5) We will use illegal immigrants, not illegal aliens.

Posted In
Immigration
Network/Outlet
The Washington Times
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