Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, NPR Ombudsman on the ilegal vs. undocumented debate

Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, NPR Ombudsman wrote on a column published yesterday (April 17h):

“ …While NPR has (correctly in my opinion) avoided loaded terms such as “illegals” or “illegal aliens” as being overly charged and largely inaccurate to describe all of the people affected, there still is no word or phrase that can be used without fear of objection by someone in this debate.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has put out a helpful glossary of terms that is very useful and some of the NAHJ’s recommendations are being used, coincidentally by NPR.

A number of NPR and member-station journalists asked that NPR put out a guide of which terms and phrases are preferred on NPR. Vice President for News Bill Marimow says that common sense should guide journalists, rather than any specific dos-and-don’ts:

When there is only one word which precisely and accurately describes a situation, we will use that. But when there is a range of choices, we prefer that journalists use their common sense and choose words that describe the situation with accuracy, thoroughness, fairness and sensitivity.

My own suggestion is that the word that seems to be the most accurate but least incendiary is “undocumented.” The debate seems to be about whether people who come to the United States have some recognizable legal status, signified by their possessing the proper documents. To me, that’s what the core of the debate is all -- or mostly -- about. Anything else sounds like advocacy to me.”

Read the whole piece on:


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