AP Urges Reporters to Sugar Coat the News

by Kerry Dougherty

Well, this is alarming. At a time when trust in the media is cratering, the Associated Press Stylebook wants journalists to replace the word “riot” when describing mayhem in the streets with “milder” terms such as “unrest.”

It seems reporters who accurately describe what they see when the streets are filled with looting, shootings, fires and lawlessness make some people uncomfortable.

The AP believes it is better to examine the roots of the, ah, unrest, than to tell the ugly truth.

This is the state of modern journalism. Any wonder most newspapers are circling the drain?

Let’s back up.

Wikipedia describes the AP Stylebook this way:

The AP Stylebook, also known by its full name The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, is an English grammar style and usage guide created by American journalists working for or connected with the Associated Press.…rules for usage as well as styles for capitalization, abbreviation, spelling and numerals.

Journalists have a more succinct description: The bible.

When I left The Virginian-Pilot in 2017, I took with me the copy of the AP Stylebook that I got when I was hired. Back then it was also a “Libel Manual.” The copyright on mine is 1984. Outdated in a million ways but still useful when trying to remember the difference between homicide and murder and when to use “cement” and when to use “concrete.”

Newspapers are under no obligation to follow the AP rules, but many do.

You may have noticed one of its most recent edicts: Black, when referring to African-Americans, is capitalized. White is not.

The explanation:

AP’s style is now to capitalize Black in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa. The lowercase black is a color, not a person. AP style will continue to lowercase the term white in racial, ethnic and cultural senses.

Any publication not subscribing to the Upper-Case-B rule risks being seen as racist, which is why papers have been quick to adopt the change.

But the latest rule from the AP stylebook is absolutely appalling:

Use care in deciding which term best applies: A riot is a wild or violent disturbance of the peace involving a group of people. The term riot suggests uncontrolled chaos and pandemonium…

Focusing on rioting and property destruction rather than underlying grievance has been used in the past to stigmatize broad swaths of people protesting against lynching, police brutality or for racial justice, going back to the urban uprisings of the 1960s.”

In other words, people may be rioting, but they have their reasons. Better to deal with underlying issues than report accurately about the mayhem in the streets.

In a piece headlined “The Associate Press Advises Suppressing The Truth About Riots,” The New York Post wrote this:

AP suggests replacing “riots” with “milder” terms such as “unrest.”

Give us a break.

Property destruction has a human toll. … The unprecedented national destruction may lead to insurers excluding coverage for riot damage in the future — not that plenty of innocent small businesses aren’t already finding their policies badly insufficient.

This destruction hits minorities hardest. People who’ve spent years toiling to build a business have had it all lost in a night.

The Post also pointed out that most of the riots didn’t appear to be led by Black Lives Matter members but by Antifa. You know, flabby white anarchists with face tattoos.

The AP decree is a lot like the Orwellian video Michelle Obama made this week, insisting that we didn’t really see what we saw this summer when cities were burning, police officers were being attacked and people were being beaten in the streets.

The protests were mostly non-violent, she insisted, Trump’s a racist for calling for law and order.

I have news for Mrs. Obama and the spongebuckets who cook up the nuttiness in the AP Stylebook. The damage caused by RIOTS this summer cost an estimated $1 billion and several dozen people lost their lives, including law enforcement officers.

No, not every demonstration or protest devolved into rioting, but plenty did.

The fact that the Associated Press is urging reporters to abandon truth telling in favor of squishy euphemisms may make the media the biggest casualty of the summer of 2020.

You know, the summer of riots.

The column is republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited

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13 responses to “AP Urges Reporters to Sugar Coat the News

  1. Ambrose Bierce: “Riot: A popular entertainment given to the military by innocent bystanders.” So cynicism around this term is not new.

    Riot is a specific legal term, and if the civil or military authorities make a declaration that one is taking place, in effect “read the riot act,” triggering certain legal conditions, then the word certainly applies. That has happened several times this summer in too many places.

    I do not disagree with the first paragraph of the AP’s new “guidance.” To be a riot, the situation must be truly out of control. Much of what we have seen this summer has not been out of control, quite the contrary, so the term there should be “insurrection.” You won’t see it used, but that word works.

    • Or zabernism, depending entirely on which end of the nightsticks you’re standing.

      • Right. It is the cops or National Guard setting fires, wielding clubs, breaking windows, spray painting everywhere and carting off everything not bolted down in the Target store. No. Not “Zabernism.” (Might work for Daley’s cops at the ’68 Democratic convention, though….)

        • No, that’s the vandals and looters. They are found behind the marchers because the cops are stupid enough to be in front of the protest marchers leaving the back to the criminal element.

  2. Every time I read something like this I add the same item to my weekly “to do list”: Buy more ammo.

    Freedom of religion has been successfully limited by people like Comrade diBlasio. Freedom of speech, especially on campus, is granted selectively. Freedom of the press is effectively dead as groups like the AP engage in newspeak. Kamela Harris said she would curtail the right to bear arms by executive order.

    Americans aren’t stupid. Where does this all end?

  3. If I am exercising my right to protest peacefully and some factions get violent, is it a “riot” and am I a “rioter?”

  4. Like many articles I’ve read over the 30+ years I lived in Tidewater (NOT the silly moniker Hampton Roads moniker rammed down our throats since only a few of us actually lived on the water) … this post’s a keeper.

    Raise hand if not understanding the reference to water…

    • “Tidewater, also called Coastal Plain, natural region in eastern Virginia, U.S., comprising a low-lying alluvial plain on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay between the Atlantic Ocean and the Fall Line (a line marking the junction between the hard rocks of the Appalachians and the softer deposits of the coastal plain).”

      From https://www.britannica.com/place/Tidewater

  5. When I grew up it was Tidewater. HR is some marketer’s idea

  6. Yes, yes, never mind that Hampton Roads is written on the earliest charts of the settlers, and that Tidewater includes all of the area from the Chesapeake to the fall line (Tappahannock is in Tidewater Virginia too).

    Technically, we should treat it as Mexico has the Yucatan.

    • Splitting the pelage here, are we?

      • I prefer Hampton Roads since waaay back in my 7th/8th grade Virginia History class it was explained we had 4 regions, Eastern Shore, Tidewater, Piedmont, and the Appalachians, and that Tidewater went all the way to Richmond (the I-95 is the approximate boundary).

        I’m sure there is an Algonquin word for the area. We should use it.

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