When you see it, protest. I wrote to Brad Kalbfeld (Deputy Director, Managing Editor, a member of the AP senior management team) to recommend vocabulary guidelines:
“I am writing to you to request that you draw up some vocabulary guidelines for the Associated Press.
As an objective reporting service, you surely cannot have missed the fact that vocabulary choices resonate. In the political climate of the United States at this time, I think it is important that you consider very carefully the way certain words are gaining currancy in our news. Please do not contribute to the problem.
The immediate cause of my writing is the following story (see below), which was distributed by you and picked up by action news2 wbsbtv.com.
MARTINEZ — Two people and an unborn child died when their car was struck at an intersection by a shoplifting suspect.
In describing a pregnancy of 16-20 weeks as an “unborn child” you are choosing a vocabulary that is championed only by those who wish to change our laws about a woman’s right to choose an abortion, to use birth control, and the like. The rhetoric of the personhood of a fetus is extremely charged. Not all of us want to be visualized as “pre-pregnant” and I, for one, am completely opposed to the christian dominionist thinking that has permeated our media. A child is a child at birth. “Unborn” is nonsense, like “pre-dead”.
“Two people, one of whom was pregnant, died…” or something like that would have been more appropriate.
The AP has stood for freedom of information. The media is the message. I implore you to consider the discourse and rhetoric that you use and construct. There are neutral ways of talking, and I rely on the AP to employ them.”
When I read the article more carefully, I realized that the woman who lost her pregnancy hadn’t died in the accident, so my alternate wording would have been incorrect. My bad, but the larger point holds.