Tuesday, September 13, 2005

RACISM? Use of "refugee" seens as biased by some Afro-American groups

Society of Professional Journalists: "Some media outlets limit use of word 'refugee'
The Washington Post today joined the Miami Herald, National Public Radio, the Tulsa (Okla.) Daily World and other news organizations in tightening rules on using the word 'refugee' to describe people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The Associated Press and The New York Times both defended their use of the word today and said they planned to continue using it. Critics, including some African American leaders, have portrayed use of the word to describe displaced people, who on television screens have been largely black, as part of what they called a racial double standard that has characterized the response to the devastation. Some say that's precisely why the word is appropriate. Still others say the entire discussion is irrelevant, given the magnitude of the damage that must be addressed. At the Los Angeles Times, editors said the paper had decided to use the word 'advisedly,' but had not prohibited it. The Miami Herald was among the first mainstream news organizations to restrict use of the term on Friday, when executive editor Tom Fiedler sent out an e-mail that said, 'When writing about people displaced by Katrina, the word 'evacuees' is preferable to 'refugees.' In addition to political implications, the latter implies that the people cannot return, which isn't the case for all.' On Sunday at the Tulsa World in Oklahoma, city editor Wayne Greene told his staff: 'Saturday afternoon we decided to not use the word 'refugee' in reference to the evacuated people, even though that's a perfectly good English word that describes what they are. It's an issue that the Congressional Black Caucus has raised, saying it makes the people sound like second-class noncitizens. Under the argument that we'd rather switch than fight, we have used the words 'evacuee' and 'displaced people."'

Source: Richard Prince, Maynard Institute for Journalism Education

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