At the New York Times this morning, standards editor Philip Corbett ruled on how to use the term "alt-right" in stories. The email that went out to staff says that when using the term, include some content since "many readers have only the vaguest notion of what it means." Another reason to explain the term, he writes, is so that it doesn't become seen as a euphemism.
"It’s a racist, far-right fringe movement that embraces an ideology of white nationalism and is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist," Corbett says.
Since we're talking about the New York Times newsroom, you can see the place and many of its inhabitants in a Facebook video of a mariachi group performing yesterday at the send off for national immigration reporter Julia Preston. They do a few old standards and many photos were taken.
OK, here's the Corbett memo.
A number of people inside and outside the newsroom have asked about the term “alt-right.” Some have argued that the phrase should not be used at all; they see it as a euphemism that disguises the movement’s racism.
After discussing the issue with several knowledgeable reporters and editors, I don’t think banning the term is the best approach. Readers are hearing and seeing “alt-right” elsewhere -- it’s used both by adherents and by experts who study and track these groups. But many readers have only the vaguest notion of what it means. Our job is to make sure readers understand the term so that it doesn’t function as a euphemism.
Let’s avoid using “alt-right” in isolation, without an explanation (which means it will rarely be appropriate in headlines). We don’t need to adopt one-size-fits-all boilerplate, but any description can touch on some key elements, based on our own reporting about the “alt-right”:
It’s a racist, far-right fringe movement that embraces an ideology of white nationalism and is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist. It is highly decentralized but has a wide online presence. Followers rail against multiculturalism and what they see as “political correctness.”
So, for example, we might describe someone as "a leader of the so-called alt-right, a far-right fringe movement that embraces white nationalism and a range of racist and anti-immigrant positions."
We can also make it clear that this is the term adopted by the movement itself -- by putting it in quotes on first reference, or with a phrase like “so-called alt-right” or “who describe themselves as ‘alt-right.’” As always, it’s best to be specific and provide details in describing the views of individuals and groups, rather than relying solely on shorthand labels.
We’ll be doing much more reporting on this topic, so I’m confident our readers will get a full, unvarnished picture.
Let me know if you have more questions.