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Deborah Howell, Washington Post ombudsman: WaPo immigration coverage mostly OK

Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell offers "Immigration Coverage in the Crossfire" (link):
Readers who oppose illegal immigration often complain that The Post has too much sympathy for those living in the United States illegally and too little for those who oppose this...

...A review of immigration stories, mostly local, over the past year and several months, showed that the coverage was mostly straightforward and informative...
Obvious to those who've seen my discussion of their articles, it's been anything but that. I've discussed dozens of WaPo immigration stories that were full of lies and/or misleading or incomplete statements. The latest example involved Joel Achenbach comparing those who oppose illegal immigration to the Nazis. Howell lauds N.C. Aizenman for another story, and discussing the flaws in that is left as an exercise. However, about a year ago he or she gushed over El Salvador's consul general. In January, Jonathan Weisman misled regarding Mike Huckabee's immigration stance. They printed a contributed article from Gary Jacobsen describing how to hire a day laborer. I could sit here for the rest of the day typing those in, but you get the point: Howell is misleading her readers just as badly as the WaPo's "reporters" do.

She does take the WaPo to task for some issues with their coverage, such as using "anti-immigrant" instead of "anti-illegal immigration". But, then she engages in something similar herself:
Have the views of those against illegal immigrants been fully told? My review included many stories quoting opponents -- as well as their march on the Mall. Some feel they've been portrayed as racist and xenophobic. While some have been quoted expressing views that might be interpreted that way, most have not. Halsey said it has been "very challenging to write effectively about people opposed to illegal immigration, because they are very passionate and seem suspicious of our motives and are less welcoming to our attention when we try to talk to them about their motivations."
While some or many opposed to illegal immigration might be "against illegal immigrants", others might not be opposed to them on a personal level, and Howell fails to make that distinction. It's also a very rare day when the WaPo questions the motivations of those who support illegal immigration; their too-left-even-for us report on Mexicanos Sin Fronteras might come close.

And, consider this:
On terminology, Chip Beck, a State Department officer and former U.S. consul, believes it's important to use "illegal alien." Beck, who said he was not speaking for the State Department, said, "Foreign nationals who come across the border without papers or who overstay their visa are deemed 'illegal aliens.' Those are the legally correct terms. . . . The correct terminology is not derogatory but carries precise meanings under law." He sent a copy of the federal law that says: "The term 'alien' means any person not a citizen or national of the United States."

The Post does not use "alien" in news stories and prefers "illegal immigrant." Even if "alien" is legal terminology, to me, it sounds like someone from outer space. "Undocumented workers" is also discouraged. The Post stylebook says of "undocumented": "When used to describe immigrants, this is a euphemism that obscures an important fact -- that they are in this country illegally."
As a commenter says at the article:
How dimwitted can you get? Is this the intellectual level the Post is running at? Did these people cover the Alien and Sedition Acts in 7th grade history?

Other tags: nc aizenman

Immigration2008a · Sat, 03/01/2008 - 08:55 · Importance: 1

Sat, 03/01/2008 - 19:20
Fred Dawes
www.myspace.com/freddawes1776

You guys know this has nothing be do with being dimwitted its part of the plan dismantling OF THE FORMER USA, the political Alien/Obama will have the power soon when not if Obama becomes President the deal has been made with the power pigs at the top, the real rulers of total evil have made the deal with that pig Barack Obama, so say good bye to the USA and say hi to the new way..if you know what i mean? oh by the way you will still see the flag fly but it will mean nothing. can we say 1984? if you can't see that you must be dimwitted. its pointless but buy guns.

Sat, 03/01/2008 - 22:34
rhymefest

"It's impossible to cover this issue without the challenges faced by people who are here illegally. We have tried not to be repetitive in those stories," Halsey said. Try harder then because your publication is a broken record. 'seem suspicious of our motives' Gee, I wonder why? The Post does not use "alien" in news stories and prefers "illegal immigrant." You just admitted to a policy of forbidding accuracy. In other words, you require, by policy, INaccuracy. You are in the NEWS department, Debbie--the Post stylebook policy on this matter is editorializing. Change your policy to one of precision and accuracy. Even if "alien" is legal terminology, to me, it sounds like someone from outer space. That's an astoundingly weak excuse. The meaning it 'sounds like to you' is only the 4th definition of the noun form--the meaning relating to countries is the PRIMARY definition--listed at #1 in every dictionary I've ever seen. It's not just some arcane legal term non-lawyers shouldn't be expected to know. That excuse doesn't hold water. Because 'alien' isn't even a pejorative, this creates the appearance of bias in favor of positive sounding language. It's true that 'alien' isn't positive--it's neutral. Since when is neutral language forbidden from news coverage? In a nutshell, in the context of immigration, your policy against 'alien' excludes from print not just the most accurate term but the most neutral one. Thus, in immigration coverage, a news department should certainly not ban its use. It should, at the very least, officially prefer it if not insist or require it.