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Married? You Better Check with Associated Press

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An internal Associated Press memo, intended for use by its reporters, suggests that the group is equivocal, at best, about how it is willing to characterize spouses in a same-sex marriage.

“Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages,” stated a memo that spokesman Paul Colford provided to the jimromenesko.com media watch website this week.

Making a distinction that is difficult to discern with clarity, Colford’s memo also stated, “We were asked how to report about same-sex couples who call themselves ‘husband’ and ‘wife.’ Our view is that such terms may be used in AP content if those involved have regularly used those terms (“Smith is survived by his husband, John Jones”) or in quotes attributed to them.”

Given the large volume of newspaper copy nationwide generated by AP and the fact that the group purports to set style standards for American journalism generally, its unwillingness to recognize marriage by same-sex copies without reservation is troubling.

Colford’s message to jimromenesko.com was prompted by the website’s publication earlier in the week of another AP memo that stated, “We were asked how to report about same-sex couples who call themselves ‘husband’ and ‘wife.’ Our view is that such terms may be used in AP stories with attribution. Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.”

Colford advised Romenesko that the memo he forwarded reflects a revision to the language the website earlier cited. The revision, however, seems like only a grudging –– or is it Drudging? –– advance.

Earlier this year, AP scrubbed the word homophobia from use by its reporters, advising them to use language that is “neutral” and “precise.”

For now, the practice of calling homosexual men “gay” appears to be safe, but we’ll keep you advised.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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