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August 18, 2014

AP Stylebook Says that Men Aged 18 or Older Should be Called "Men," Not "Teen" or "Teenager," So Why Does AP Keep Calling 18 Year Old Giant Michael Brown a "Teenager"?

Via @justkarl -- I think the answer is adequately addressed in the last post.

Michael Brown was a happy turtle and the officer who shot him was a devious, hateful hawk.

The whole point of a stylebook on such terminology is to limit a reporter's ability to skew stories via word choice. (And also limit public criticism of word choice, because the news agency can always refer to its stylebook and say "We've decided this without reference to any particular story, and we enforce the stylebook rules without enmity or favoritism in every story.")

But a stylebook only serves this purpose if it's actually followed.*


* And the whole point of this stylebook rule is precisely this sort of case. Any 18 year old accused of a crime will naturally press to be referred to as a "teenager," to conjure public sympathy.

So the rule exists for exactly to keep reporters from deciding on their own whether to sympathize a person as a "teenager" or to de-sympathize him as a "man."

This is then an important situation in which AP should follow its own rule.

But instead it chooses to break it, and call the 6'4", 260+ pound hulk Michael Brown a "teenager."

Oh, and I know that Michael Brown is not accused of a crime, per se, but obviously the same rule attaches here for similar reasons-- the whole point is to de-power the reporter from deciding when he wants to elicit sympathy in a legal matter, and when he doesn't.



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posted by Ace at 06:17 PM

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