We had an incredible day presenting the petitions--signed by 70,000 people--to ask the New York Times to drop the i-word. Press and protesters came out to the event, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of social-justice activist Cesar Chavez's death.
As covered by Colorlines and other media outlets, Fernando Chavez and writer/activist Jose Antonio Vargas, along with several partners--including ARC--presented the petition started by Chavez's mother, Helen, to Executive Editor Jill Abramson. A representative from NYT Legal department accepted the petitions on the publications behalf.
And this was the response as of 5PM yesterday:
On Tuesday, The New York Times updated its policies on how it uses the phrase "illegal immigrant" in its coverage. The newspaper did not go as far as The Associated Press, and it will continue to allow the phrase to be used for "someone who enters, lives in or works in the United States without proper legal authorization." But it encourages reporters and editors to "consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions."
Philip B. Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards, who oversees the Times' style manual, made the announcement on Tuesday shortly after a group staged a protest in front of The New York Times headquarters and delivered more than 70,000 signatures to Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The Times, asking her to end the use of the phrase.
Mr. Corbett said in a statement that editors had spent months deliberating the updated style change. He said he shared these changes "with key reporters and editors over the last couple of weeks." He said he recognized how sensitive this issue is for readers. The changes announced by Mr. Corbett to the stylebook suggested caution when looking for alternatives to "illegal immigrant."
"'Unauthorized' is also an acceptable description, though it has a bureaucratic tone," Mr. Corbett said. " 'Undocumented' is the term preferred by many immigrants and their advocates, but it has a flavor of euphemism and should be approached with caution outside quotations." The stylebook also calls for special care to be taken with those who have a complicated or shifting status, like those brought to the United States as children.
"Advocates on one side of this political debate have called on news organizations to use only the terms they prefer," Mr. Corbett said. "But we have to make those decisions for journalistic reasons alone, based on what we think best informs our readers on this important topic." He added: "It's not our job to take sides."
Unfortunately, continuing to use the I-Word is choosing sides.
Though we are disappointed by the New York Times' stance--our partner GLAAD has a post about the shared feeling that has been cross-posted on NBC Latino today--the Drop the I-Word campaign and our partners are undeterred by the publication's stance. We are strategizing further actions to take because this word cannot stay in the public vocabulary to dehumanize groups of people--and we know that 70,000 people support this idea.