Words are important, even in journalism

Little dig there at my j-school friends… But seriously, this is a short but important piece from the Standards and Practices Managing Editor at NPR on why they won’t use the word “manifesto” for writings left behind by the terrorist who targeted the Buffalo Black community. There are many other words that newspapers and television outlets should be careful with. Anyone know if there’s a list?

Back in 2019, my predecessor as editor for Standards and Practices at NPR, Mark Memmott, responding to the shooting in New Zealand by a man who expressed similar motives, asked the newsroom to “move away” from calling the document that shooter left on line as a “manifesto.”

“The word ‘manifesto,’ ” Memmott wrote, “also may elevate such a statement, in the eyes of those who might want to copy this person’s actions, to something more than it might really have been.”

That warning holds true today. A “manifesto” can also be seen as a call to action. There are many words, “statement” “screed” and simply “writings” that come to mind to accurately characterize the online document without giving it the implied importance of “manifesto.”

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