Immigrant Rights Supporters-
Tu voz cuenta! Your voice counts! TAKE ACTION now!
Your action on this very timely issue will only take 5 minutes of your time.
Write or call Kate Parry (Star Tribunes Readers Representative) at readerrep@...
612-673-4450 and tell her that:
1) As an informed reader and/or Star Tribune patron you are aware of the fact that the Stribs editors and style committee are discussing the newspapers language on immigration issues.
2) Tell them why YOU think its inaccurate for ALL MEDIA to use the words illegal alien and illegal immigrant when covering immigration
3) Ask the Strib to actively participate in a public forum with other media (such as the Pioneer Press, the Mn Daily, etc.), the Minnesota News Council and concerned community members to discuss language usage when covering immigration issues and come to a community wide agreement on which words to use when writing stories.
Lastly, let us know what you found out!
Write to us (freedomnetwork@...
) and let us know what they said to you - did you make any headway or were you asked to talk to someone else?
Keep us informed of your action outcomes!
Below is Parrys column on April 15, 2006 where this issue is beginning to be addressed
(see the very end of column):
Answers to questions, big and small
Queries range from matters of policy and news judgment to the little stars that appear on some pages.
Why wasn't the story on alleged planning for a possible U.S. attack on Iran on the front page? Why wasn't
the race of a suspect in a crime published? What do the tiny stars in the upper right corner of the section covers mean?
I'm always glad to field reader questions about the newspaper and how it works. Sometimes when similar questions come from several readers, it becomes clear there is broader interest in the answers. So, I asked editors to answer three of those questions:
Q In the wake of the Uptown and Block E shootings, and now with the stabbing of a Vadnais Heights convenience store clerk, several readers have wondered why racial descriptions of the suspects provided by police sometimes don't appear in the Star Tribune but do appear in other media. Shouldn't the newspaper provide every shred of information
to help identify these people?
A Here's what the newsroom's official stylebook says: "Race can be used as part of larger description of a crime suspect if that description is complete with regard to standard categories of identification such as age, build or weight, height and hair style or color or includes some of those categories plus other very specific identifiers such as scars or clothing."
"If it's just a generic description -- the suspect was black -- that's not going to help anyone track down a suspect, and it can inflame racial issues," explained Nancy Barnes, deputy managing editor for content.
In the Vadnais Heights stabbing last week, police
provided a detailed description that included the word "Hispanic." The reporter and several editors left it in the story because it seemed to fit the stylebook's requirements; editors working later that night removed it because they didn't think there was enough detail and because a photo of a suspect was running with the story.
Barnes thinks the word "Hispanic" should have been left in, and she's responded with a procedure for editors who work early in the day to mark approved racial references so editors who work at night will know top editors have weighed the decision.
All kinds of issues complicate racial descriptions. What, exactly, does the word "Hispanic" mean as a visual description? Hispanic people can be brown, black, white and many shades in between. That's something for journalists to question police about when that word is used.
Sometimes restraint, even when all other media are using the information, can pay off. In the Uptown shooting case, police told reporters the suspect might have a Somali accent. Star Tribune reporters and editors, concerned about the word "might," decided not to use that part of the description -- which turned out to be a sound call when police arrested a suspect who wasn't Somali.
Q Last Sunday, several readers picked up their morning papers and were startled by an item toward the top of page one with the headline " U.S. considers strikes on Iran ," directing them back to page A15 for the whole story. "Put the important stuff on 1A. Today, you've got a million dollar house and a big blurb on a
wedding dress. Then there's this teeny thing about the U.S. considering a strike on Iran ," said Dorothy Brown, a child support officer who lives in Minnetonka . Why wasn't that story on the front page?
A The story came over the wires Saturday evening and Rene Sanchez, the Sunday editor, made the decision at about 10 p.m. He put the small item on page one drawing attention to the story inside the paper because "the reporting looked credible, and I suspected that the story would emerge early in the week as a focus of national attention."
But the actual story, based on unnamed sources, was hesitantly worded. It said the Bush administration was "studying options." It
reported that "no attack appears likely in the short term." It raised the possibility that the story was being floated to apply diplomatic pressure. There was no confirmation from Bush administration officials on the record.
Sanchez weighed all that in deciding whether to tear up page one on a Saturday night, when deadlines are earlier because of the time it takes to print the large Sunday paper. "Ripping up the front page at that hour on a Saturday would have been tough, something we only do when there's big breaking news," Sanchez said. He decided the story was too sketchy to warrant that.
"I was heartened that we got a prominent reference to the story on the Sunday front page, while most other papers, including the New York Times, had nothing," Sanchez noted.
to the nagging little mystery of the stars. Every now and then a reader calls and asks what the tiny stars in the upper corners of some pages mean. Pat Dillon, who lives in Savage, tried to figure it out and finally called: "I haven't been able to relate those stars to anything else and it's driving me crazy."
A They are "makeover stars," said Paul Klauda, assistant managing editor for news. Each time editors update a page, a star is added. "Their chief role is to help people handling pages between the newsroom and the pressroom keep track of remade (or makeover) versions of pages to make sure the right version of the page gets on the press."
JOIN THIS DISCUSSION
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists voiced concern last week that some language media use to
report on immigration issues is dehumanizing. In response, the Star Tribune's editors and style committee are discussing the newspaper's language on immigration issues. Please call or e-mail me your views and I'll make sure they're included in that discussion.
Below is a copy of NAHJs Statements:
NAHJ Urges News Media to Stop Using Dehumanizing Terms When Covering Immigration
Calls for stopping the use of illegals as a noun, curbing the phrase illegal alien
Joseph Torres (202) 662-7143; Daniela Montalvo (202) 662-7152
Washington, D.C. -- As protesters march in the streets and debate intensifies in Congress over how to fix the nations immigration laws, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists calls on our nations news media to use accurate terminology in its coverage of immigration and to stop dehumanizing
NAHJ is concerned with the increasing use of pejorative terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States . NAHJ is particularly troubled with the growing trend of the news media to use the word illegals as a noun, shorthand for "illegal aliens". 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.
Shortening the term in this way also stereotypes undocumented people who are in the United States as having committed a crime. Under current
U.S. immigration law, being an undocumented immigrant is not a crime, it is a civil violation. Furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of all undocumented people living in the U.S. are visa overstayers, meaning they did not illegally cross the U.S. border.
In addition, the association has always denounced the use of the degrading terms alien and illegal alien to describe undocumented immigrants because it casts them as adverse, strange beings, inhuman outsiders who come to the U.S. with questionable motivations. Aliens is a bureaucratic term that should be avoided unless used in a quote.
NAHJ, a 2,300-member organization of reporters, editors and other journalists, addresses the use of these words and phrases by the news media in its Resource Guide for Journalists. The following are excerpts for some of the terms prevalent in the current news coverage:
A word used by the U.S. government to describe a foreign-born person who is not a citizen by naturalization or parentage. People who enter the United States legally are called resident aliens and they carry alien registration cards also known as "green cards," because they used to be
While Webster's first definition of the term "alien" is in accordance with the government's interpretation, the dictionary also includes other, darker, meanings for the word, such as a non-terrestrial being," "strange," "not belonging to one," "adverse," "hostile." And the Encyclopedia Britannica points out that "in early times, the tendency was to look upon the alien as an enemy and to treat him as a criminal or an outlaw." It is not surprising then that in 1798, in anticipation of a possible war with France , the U.S. Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which restricted "aliens" and curtailed press freedoms. By 1800 the laws had been repealed or had expired but they still cast a negative shadow over the word.
In modern times, with
science-fiction growing in popularity, "alien" has come to mean a creature from outer space, and is considered pejorative by most immigrants.
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."
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.
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.
Similar to reporting about a person's race, mentioning that a person is a first-generation immigrant could be used to provide readers or viewers with background information, but the relevancy of using the term should be made apparent in the story. Also, the status of undocumented workers should be discussed between source, reporter and editors because of the risk of deportation.
Preferred term to "illegal immigrant," "illegal(s)" and "illegal alien." This term describes the immigration status of people who do not have the federal documentation to show they are legally entitled to work, visit or live here. Some Latinos say this term more accurately describes people who are in the United States illegally because the word points out that they are undocumented, but does not dehumanize them in the manner that such terms as aliens and illegals do.
Preferred term to "illegal alien," "illegal immigrant," or "illegal(s)." This term describes the immigration status of people who do not have the federal documentation to show they are legally entitled to work,
visit or live here.
Alondra K. Espejel
Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network
2500 University Avenue, Suite C8
St. Paul, MN 55114
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