WIUM Tristates Public Radio

News Reporting & the "Alt-Right"

Dec 20, 2016

The Associated Press recently issued guidelines for referring to the "alt-right."  Among other things, the wire service suggested, "Whenever 'alt-right' is used in a story, be sure to include a definition: 'an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism,' or, more simply, 'a white nationalist movement.'"

None of the Shop Talk panelists ever heard the term “alt-right” before this year’s presidential election campaign and they agreed it should be defined in news stories.

Panelist Will Buss is glad the AP issued guidelines.  He said it’s important for journalists to explain what’s behind such a movement instead of allowing its advocates to define themselves.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton concurred, saying journalists should not use the term unless they describe what the “alt-right” is all about.

Panelist Rich Egger feels the same standards should have been applied to the Tea Party.  He said it’s not a clearly defined movement and there is no official Tea Party group or political party.

Egger also wondered when reporters should call an organization what it wants to be called and when reporters should use a different term or definition.

Buss said reporters should make clear what cultural beliefs are held by a group and describe a group for what it is.

Crighton cited the example of the terrorist group known as either ISIS or ISIL.  She said the group prefers ISIS because that implies it’s an Islamic state and has some territorial authority.  But ISIL is used by those who want to emphasize that it is not a nation state.