Associated Press Updates “Alt-Right” Usage Guide

Jim Burroway

November 29th, 2016

Associated PressA new term has emerged in the press the past few months, and publishers are struggling to come to terms with it. Specifically, how should the identification of the “alt-right” be dealt with?  I know I’m not the only one who has had to figure this one out. John Daniszewski, the Associated Press’ Vice President for Standards, has just delivered the organization’s verdict, beginning with a definition:

The “alt-right” or “alternative right” is a name currently embraced by some white supremacists and white nationalists to refer to themselves and their ideology, which emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States in addition to, or over, other traditional conservative positions such as limited government, low taxes and strict law-and-order.

The movement has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism.

The AP says you can use “alt-right” in quotation-marks (and lower case) as a part of a quote, or when modified, as in “the so-called alt-right”. A definition for the “alt-right” should also be provided because, as Daniszewski points out, “In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.” He then provides an example from an AP news report:

With an ideology that’s a mix of racism, white nationalism and old-fashioned populism, the “alt-right” has burst into the collective consciousness since members showed up at the Republican National Convention to celebrate Trump’s nomination last summer.

The AP’s influence in these matters goes far beyond the Associated Press. News rooms across the country use the AP style guide as their go-to guide. And, for the sake of clarity, so will I.




November 29th, 2016

I’m surprised and disappointed that the AP would adopt a “pop-culture” term to describe this charming sub-section of society. Perhaps they are trying to save the number of words they use, however, to me using the term Alt-Right acts as a (for some) more palatable term for what the words really should be.

Jim, please don’t use the term. Use the truth. They are a dangerous mixture of racist, white nationalist, white supremacists and are the kissing cousins of Nazis.

Same with the term “post-truth”. The actual term is lies. Period.

This is not the time to sugar-coat anything.

Jim Burroway

November 29th, 2016

I think you misread what the AP is doing. They say you can use “alt-right” only as part of a quote, and that it should be defined as in the example. In other words, you can’t just use “alt-right” all by itself without linking it explicitly to its meaning.


November 29th, 2016

The problem, and danger that I see, is that the term has already been used countless times without the description. Journalists are as lazy as anyone else… why include the description if you can just use the term, especially in the current climate where it seems every and anyone is just waiting to be offended by any and everything?

What I’m saying to you Jim, is that you have the choice. Please choose NOT to use a meaningless language shortcut.

Ryan P

November 30th, 2016

Are we going to move to a alt-left or alt-center verbiage as well? Why do we go through this language gymnastics time and again? An apple is still an apple not a “alt-crispy orange”. Racism is still racism no matter that it is called. This was all done during the 1930’s and 1940’s. I guess history is repeating itself!


December 3rd, 2016

Speaking as an editor, let me point out that usage is a matter of consensus, and you don’t get to ignore terms or words that are in popular use because you don’t approve of them. You have to deal with the language as it is. (That’s why style manuals are constantly being revised — living languages don’t hold still.)

In this case, I think AP has taken exactly the right tack: “alt-right” is a term that is going to be used — by the “alt-right” if by no one else — and reporters/opinion writers ignore it at their peril. Setting it off by using it only as part of a quotation and defining it when it is used calls attention to the fact that it is an attempt at masking an unsavory reality and is not legitimate in its own right. It undercuts their credibility, whereas calling someone a racist or Nazi undercuts your own — a corollary of Godwin’s Law.

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