Trust in journalism and respect for journalists has been in steady decline for years. The reason is clear to readers and even obvious to Brent Cunningham, the Columbia Journalism Review’s (CJR) managing editor.
Said Cunningham, “I think [reporters] today cherry-pick facts and ignore the arguments that are in the way.” In a single sentence, Cunningham summed up how the mainstream media reports on immigration. The substantial “arguments” that organizations who support lower immigration levels are either, to use Cunningham’s word, “ignored” or marginalized.
Despite continuously pontificating about the importance of fairness and balance which the CJR, the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Associated Press and dozens of other similar organizations advocate for, in the end newspaper immigration stories are long on sympathy for illegal aliens and short on the considerable evidence that it should be limited.
Correction—I wrote “illegal aliens,” a phrase that if the Society of Professional Journalists had its way would never be printed again. In its weepy, excessively politically correct defense of its recommendation that “illegal alien” be dropped from journalists’ vernacular and “undocumented immigrant” take its place, the SPJ said: that “only courts can decide when a person has committed an illegal act.”
What the SPJ has done is further diminish journalists’ reputations to the extent that they’re the target of derision. No reader is fooled by “undocumented immigrant”. We all know it translates to illegal alien. Why bother, then?
But more importantly to the journalism profession that likes to boast about truth and accuracy, “undocumented immigrant” is the wrong term. “Illegal alien” is the most legally precise, descriptive term to use in reference to someone who is residing in the U.S. illegally and is not a citizen. And, the term is not the invention of immigration restrictionists, although the media would like you to believe that it is.
In more than twenty-five years of patriotic activism, I’ve routinely written and said “illegal alien”. And, predictably, I’ve been charged with being filled with “hate and racism,” being someone who spews “anti-immigrant sentiments” and who has pro-Nazi leanings. My reply is always the same. When the federal government changes its language from “alien” to “undocumented immigrant,” I’ll do the same. In the meantime, those who object to “illegal alien,” should take it up with the federal officials who write the U.S. Code.
In 2009, my weekly Lodi News-Sentinel column, replied to readers who object to “illegal alien.” Read it here.