Society of Professional Journalists Wants to Avoid Term 'Illegal Immigrants'

A group that calls itself "The nation's most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior" sounds important, and would probably be a stickler for accuracy among its members and in its own affairs, wouldn't it?

Not the Society of Professional Journalists. SPJ recently institutionalized political correctness, asserting that undocumented workers should not be tagged with the so-called offensive term "illegal."

As the Culture and Media Institute first reported in December 2010, left-wing journalist Leo Laurence, a member of the SPJ's Diversity Committee, demanded that SPJ encourage its members to discontinue using the term "illegal" to describe illegal immigrants, stirring up major controversy. At the time, the SPJ claimed on the January 4, 2011 O'Reilly Factor that Laurence's position was only a suggestion brought up by some in the organization, and not the position of the group.

Only nine months later, the SPJ voted to discontinue the policy of using the term "illegal" when describing illegal immigrants. In a December 2 piece for Quill, the Society of Professional Journalists' magazine, Laurence and fellow SPJ Diversity Committee member Rebecca Aguilar celebrated their victory, and sought to "encourage editors and news managers to sit down with their staffs and have a healthy discussion over avoiding the 'I-word.'"

The resolution passed by the SPJ on the term "illegal" as applied to immigration reads:

"WHEREAS, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics urges all journalists to be 'honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information' and;

"WHEREAS, mainstream news reports are increasingly using the politically charged phrase 'illegal immigrant' and the more offensive and bureaucratic 'illegal alien' to describe undocumented immigrants, particularly Latinos and;

"WHEREAS, a fundamental principle embedded in our U.S. Constitution is that everyone (including non-citizens) is considered innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law and;

"WHEREAS, this constitutional doctrine, often described as 'innocent-until-proven-guilty,' applies not just to U.S. Citizens but to everyone in the United States and;

"WHEREAS, only the court system, not reporters and editors, can decide when a person has committed an illegal act and;

"WHEREAS, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the increasing use of pejorative and potentially inaccurate terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States;

"THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists convention of delegates: urges journalists and style guide editors to stop the use of illegal alien and encourage continuous discussion and re-evaluation of the use of illegal immigrant in news stories."

In other words, only the judicial system can determine whether or not an immigrant is illegal or not. An "undocumented worker" who had just been caught crossing the border could not be declared illegal, by these rules.

Ostensibly, the rationale for this change to the fact that the term illegal immigrant implied that people being charged with illegal entry had not yet been convicted of crimes. But those demanding a change in the language were hardly neutral advocates. Both Rebecca Aguilar and Leo Laurence have a history of intertwining left-wing activism and journalism.

In her plea to change the SPJ's policy, Rebecca Aguilar declared that "she was the daughter of undocumented immigrants," and "every time you use those words, 'aliens' is an ugly word… an ugly word, you insult my mother. You insult all other Latinos." Aguilar was previously fired by a Fox affiliate (and filed a discrimination lawsuit against Fox, which she lost) when she hounded a man who had shot two separate burglars trying to break into his home in the space of three weeks, asking him, "Are you a trigger happy person? Is that what you wanted to do? Shoot to kill?"

Laurence is a radical advocate for numerous left-wing causes such as undocumented immigrants and homosexual causes, who called for gay men and lesbians to join the Black Panther Party in "The Homosexual Revolution of 1969."

In any case, the Orwellian refusal to allow the term illegal in connection with immigrants further underscores liberal attempts to ignore reality in order to support an activist agenda.

The Society of Professional Journalists has chosen to eschew accuracy in the face of left-wing advocacy - begging the question of whether or not its own code of ethics, which demands that journalists "distinguish from advocacy and news reporting," is meaningless.