Associated Press now recommends journalists call out 'racist' behavior. Let's start with Trump
If something is racist, say so. For newsrooms, that’s the simple yet dramatic new guidance from the Associated Press. The recommendation arrives via new changes to the all-important AP Stylebook, the longtime industry bible for newsrooms across the country. For decades, editors from news organizations in the States and around the world have viewed the manual as the final arbiter on language.
The AP update is significant, as it urges editors, producers, and reporters to walk away from the hollow, mushy euphemisms like “racially motivated,” “racially incendiary,” and “racially tinged”—phrases that are often employed in place of plainspoken terms, such as “racist.” That’s especially true in political coverage, and Trump coverage in particular, as journalists almost uniformly refuse to use the “r” word to describe Trump’s comments and behavior, even though he keeps advertising his racist ways. Likely terrified of sparking a right-wing media backlash, journalists continue to tiptoe around Trump’s open embrace of hate speech and his deeply racist leanings.
The frank language would certainly cause loud consternation among white conservatives, who today produce great theater when they’re rightfully called out for racist behavior, and then use the adjective as a prompt to loudly play the victim. And that might be why journalists beg off tagging conservative behavior as racists, even when the description is often too clearly accurate.
Instead, euphemisms have become a plague on newsrooms during the Trump era, signaling that journalists are too afraid to speak truthfully about the increasing amount of racist behavior on display among politicians. Last year, HuffPost writer Julia Craven collected a wide sample of examples of reporters burning up their thesauruses in order to avoid typing the word “racist.”
Washington Post: ”racially charged,” “crude reference,” “racially incendiary,” ”disparaging,” ”vulgar,” ”expressed a preference for immigrants from Norway.”
The Associated Press: ”bluntly vulgar language,” “accused of racism,” ”the most controversial of his remarks: using the word ’shithole,’” “contemptuous blanket description,” “charges that the president is racist.”