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Verbal Gymnastics: AP Creates List of Unacceptable Words Not to Use When Reporting on Border Crisis

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Posted: Mar 30, 2021 4:30 PM
Verbal Gymnastics: AP Creates List of Unacceptable Words Not to Use When Reporting on Border Crisis

Source: Ian Nicholson/PA via AP, File

Why does it matter how the Associated Press wants their reporters to use certain words? Because those guidelines inevitably wind up in the AP Stylebook, which many newsrooms across the country follow to a near T. So expect to see outlets start following their latest advice about which words are now unacceptable to use when describing the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

In a blog post from John Daniszewski, the vice president for standards, you can see the AP’s verbal gymnastics at work: 

The current event in the news — a sharp increase in the arrival of unaccompanied minors — is a problem for border officials, a political challenge for Biden and a dire situation for many migrants who make the journey, but it does not fit the classic dictionary definition of a crisis, which is: “A turning point in the course of anything; decisive or crucial time, stage, or event,” OR “a time of, or a state of affairs involving, great danger or trouble, often one which threatens to result in unpleasant consequences [an economic crisis].

Therefore, we should avoid, or at the least, be highly cautious, about referring to the present situation as a crisis on our own, although we may quote others using that language.

So, following the White House’s lead, "crisis" is out, and while they're at it, so are "emotive words like onslaught, tidal wave, flood, inundation, surge, invasion, army, march, sneak and stealth." 

One thing you can be sure of is that if President Trump were still in office, the situation would be described as nothing but a crisis.