Bozell & Graham Column: The AP Style Book Is Getting Crazy

Back in those ancient days when teletypes gave us the sound effects for news, the Associated Press was esteemed as the gold standard of objective news coverage. Inside a liberal media bubble, that pretense continues, but for decades now, the AP has tacked hard to port along with the rest of the media establishment. They’ll deny it, of course, because that’s what they do.

But the evidence is there, emblazoned in the AP Stylebook, which sets the rules for the language of news reporting. This stylebook sets the tone of the media elite’s daily composition, in every format – print, online, or broadcast. They say it “defines clear news writing” and calls it “the journalist’s bible,” which is a fairly damning phrase, since it rejects the Bible time and again.

In the biblical account, we are created by God and assigned our sex. But the term “gender,” AP’s gurus now instruct, is “not synonymous with sex. Gender refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics.” The “objective” reporter is required to set biology aside and describe people as they “identify” themselves socially.

The AP doubles down, exploiting the authority of “medical organizations” to bend biology. “Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.”

The AP Stylebook rejects the principle of marriage, lecturing reporters not to call the children of unmarried parents “illegitimate,” and must always avoid referring to a homosexual “preference” or “lifestyle.”   

Labels have power. In the abortion debate there are the preferred labels, “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” but if the reporter’s preference is to label one side “anti-abortion,” that’s fine too – so long as the other is labeled “pro-abortion.” When it comes to killing unborn children, the AP insists you should not use the term “pro-life.”

The AP instructs reporters to say “anti-abortion,” in keeping with the constant desire to define conservatives in the negative: anti-tax, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, and so on.

What about the other side? The AP Stylebook has that covered: they are “pro-abortion rights.”

Let’s go international. There too the AP bows to left-wing pressure. They discourage the use of “Islamist,” along with that they now say are its negative connotations with “Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.” Terrorists should be defined as “militants.” We may rout Islamic State on the battlefield, but the Stylebook waves a white flag on the language.

Years ago we were told to stop using the phrase “illegal aliens.” They’re “immigrants,” we were instructed. Bizarrely, the AP is now discouraging the plain words “migrant” or “refugee” as Syrians flee to Europe. Instead this is what the experts tell reporters to call them (and we’re not making this up): “People struggling to enter Europe.” We might struggle with our luggage when arriving at the airport in Venice. Does that make us “refugees?”

In the climate debate, the Left wants conservatives labeled “deniers” or “denialists” or worse. The AP pushes back, but only a bit. “To describe those who don’t accept climate science or dispute that the world is warming from man-made forces, use climate change doubters –” Oh if only they’d stopped there. But they had to add this: “– or those who reject mainstream climate science.”

Perhaps next they will instruct that critics of the AP Stylebook must be described as “those who reject mainstream media political correctness.”

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Brent Bozell's picture


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