'Illegal Immigrant' Stays At New York Times; L.A. Latino Group Mad

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Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 12:44 PM
  • Nanette Gonzalez for LA Weekly

Illegal immigrant. The New York Times, the grand, gray lady of journalism, is sticking with it, the paper announced today.

That despite Associated Press' decision to nix the term in favor of describing people as being here illegally (as opposed to being an inherently "illegal" person because of one illicit action). At least one L.A.-based Latino group isn't happy with the Times' decision:

The National Hispanic Media Coalition, a member of the "Drop the i-Word" campaign to get papers like the Times, the Los Angeles Times and AP to stop using illegal immigrant, is bummed.

Part of the New York Times' rationale, according to Philip B. Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards, was this:

Advocates on one side of this political debate have called on news organizations to use only the terms they prefer. But we have to make those decisions for journalistic reasons alone, based on what we think best informs our readers on this important topic. It's not our job to take sides.

(So, basically, the Times isn't going to change a policy just because Latinos tell it to. Defiant!).

click to enlarge TED SOQUI FOR LA WEEKLY
  • Ted Soqui for LA Weekly

The paper announced, however, that it now encourages its reporters to "consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions."

Those alternatives include unauthorized and undocumented immigrant, the paper stated. But the National Hispanic Media Coalition says use of illegal immigrant will continue to harm the image of Latinos in America.

In a statement the group cited a poll that found "the term 'illegal alien' elicited negative feelings and contributed to the negative opinions of the Latinos community."

Alex Nogales, president of the Coalition, argued that in failing to drop the term, the Times is taking sides:

We are very disappointed at The New York Times position to continue sanctioning the word 'illegal,' a word that implies criminality and has become a racial slur. Language does evolve. In the past, we've seen words dropped by media outlets when they are harmful. One example is the success that the LGBT community had with the word 'homosexual,' major media outlets heard the LGBT community and stopped using this word. Mr. Corbett states that media's job is not to take sides, but in effect The New York Times is taking a side when it continues to use a word that has lost any descriptive meaning and is used by anti-immigrants to impugn immigrants.

  • Nanette Gonzalez for LA Weekly

Last we heard the Los Angeles Times, which does allow its writers to use the term, was still reevaluating its policy.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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