The New York Times decision last week to continue using the controversial term “illegal immigrant” is raising criticism from some ethnic and Latino media outlets.
Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times’ public editor, made her decision after two weeks of poring over input from “readers, advocates, reporters and editors” and considering the case of Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who revealed himself in the Times as an “undocumented immigrant” over a year ago.
Sullivan explained her decision in a column headlined “Readers Won’t Benefit if Times Bans the Term ‘Illegal Immigrant’:
After all the buildup, my weighing in may seem anticlimactic, because I see no advantage for Times readers in a move away from the paper’s use of the phrase “illegal immigrant.”
It is clear and accurate; it gets its job done in two words that are easily understood. The same cannot be said of the most frequently suggested alternatives – “unauthorized,” “immigrants without legal status,” “undocumented.”
In a piece for Colorlines, a “news site where race matters,” — which has been following the media’s use of the controversial term and advocating for its ban — writer Monica Novoa welcomed the heat the New York Times is taking for holding on to the use of “illegal immigrant” after many publications have bagged it.
Now, in a welcome and exciting turn, colleagues in the field of journalism are calling out the Times, too.
Christina Costantini and Ted Hesson reporting via the new ABC/Univision partnership have noted racially charged and discriminatory language from the outlet’s past. And Costantini also reported this week that, The Times Is Behind the Times noting that “when it comes to the term ‘illegal immigrant,’ the Gray Lady is late to the game.”
The article includes a run-down of the reasons why the following papers have dropped the i-word: The Huffington Post, NBC News, CNN, Fox News Latino, San Antonio Express News, The Miami Herald, ABC, Univision and the ABC/Univision partnership.
Novoa adds: “By not dropping the i-word, they are jeopardizing their values, credibility and a really smart segment of readers.”
In the editorial The Times Is Behind the Times, Constantini points out the reason why so many in the news media have dropped the term.
In many newsrooms where Latinos have a seat at the table, the term “illegal immigrant” has been dropped. NBC, which started NBC Latino this year, dropped the term. ABC, which is part of our new partnership with Univision, dropped the term. CNN, after making recent Latino hires, announced that they prefer to use “undocumented.” The Miami Herald and the San Antonio Express-News, which both have a large Hispanic readership, have dropped the term. Even Fox News, a cable channel viewed by the public to be the most conservative network in a 2009 Pew survey, took a step in the same direction when it dropped illegal in favor of “undocumented” on their Fox News Latino site.
In addition to the New York Times, the Associated Press also continues to use the term “illegal immigrant.”