Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander uncorked a surprising sentence in his Sunday column on his newspaper's terminology in immigration-policy stories:
A review of Post terminology in stories during the second half of 2010 shows that "undocumented immigrant" was used about six times more frequently than "illegal immigrant."
Most journalists use "illegal immigrant" despite pressure from Hispanic activists, both inside and outside the media. (They often avoid the term "illegal alien.") Alexander argued the Post "would be wise to join the discussion over the best vocabulary, even if it ended up reinforcing its current directives." He acknowledged that choosing terms can be choosing sides: "Those that abandoned 'illegal immigrant,' for example, surely would be accused of softening the jargon to favor advocates of less restrictive immigration laws."