AP: Let's Not Say 'Committed Suicide,' Makes Suicide Sound Illegal

Wesley Smith at Lifenews.com pointed out that the Associated Press is modifying its Stylebook to show some sensitivity to the “assisted suicide” lobby.

The AP Stylebook account on Twitter issued these instructions:

A new entry [in the Stylebook] covers suicide in news reports – “committed suicide” should be avoided except in direct quotes from authorities.

Alternate phrases include killed himself, took her own life or died by suicide.

The Columbia Journalism Review site noted AP added “Generally, AP does not cover suicides or suicide attempts, unless the person involved is a well-known figure or the circumstances are particularly unusual or publicly disruptive. Suicide stories, when written, should not go into detail on methods used.”

On the suicide issue, it seems like a semantic dodge like the difference between illegal immigrants and some who immigrated illegally. AP editor David Minthorn told Poynter's MediaWire the reason for the entry:

“Committed in that context suggests possibly an illegal act, but in fact, laws against suicide have been repealed in the US, at least in certain states, and many other places,” Minthorn said, “so we’re going to avoid using that term on our own, although it’s a term that authorities widely use and we will use it while quoting authorities.”

Smith was no impressed with this rationale: “Baloney. Suicide – as opposed to assisted suicide – is not illegal in any state. But there is no right to suicide as authorities can involuntarily hospitalize the suicidal for treatment based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Poynter added some other new terms for AP:

Global warming and climate change can be used interchangeably. This isn’t an addition, but an elaboration on why.

“We say that climate change is more accurate scientifically, but global warming is a widely used term and is understood by the public to encompass climate change.”

And CJR noted:

The AP will now prefer “animal welfare activist” to “animal rights activist.” Everyone does not agree that animals have the kinds of “rights” that people have, but it’s clear that the activists are looking out for the animals’ “welfare.”

Culture/Society Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Associated Press
Tim Graham's picture