It seems like every day in the news cycle there is a fascinating tidbit I’d like to cover in Minority Reports. But I only write once a week, so, too often, I have to let those pieces go. I keep a running list of what I’d like to write about but haven’t.
Here, in no particular order, are my quick takes on some items in the news (and about the news) that I thought were interesting lately.
Christine Quinn gets angry
A New York Times piece on New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is running for mayor, was all about her temper: She uses vulgar language! She yells in people’s faces! While the story never says the word “ladylike” (as in: she isn’t), it’s obvious that it was written because a woman with a temper seems to be an anomaly. (Though writers Michael M. Grynbaum and David W. Chen mention rival candidate Joseph J. Lhota’s temper, there’s no equivalent article about him.) New York magazine points this out, slyly, by compiling a list of many other male New York politicos known for their temper.
What is curious to me here is the focus. I don’t think it’s worth writing a full article about how a candidate who has presented herself as brash and shoot-from-the-hip has a temper. Women can — and do — get angry. It shouldn’t be sugar-coated, but it shouldn’t necessarily be made into a big deal, either.
However, what is a big deal is something that is mentioned in passing: Quinn is so vengeful, the Times reports that a slight to her can mean cuts to senior centers, youth sports, and other programs benefitting the constituents of the offender. When a politician’s urge for retaliation hurts voters, that’s important. I’d like to see a story on that.
Yelling at another politician is one thing; cutting programs important to the less-well-off because their representative didn’t do or say what the Speaker wanted is something else. Choose your battles, people.
The Associated Press Stylebook is on a roll
A big brouhaha was required for the AP Stylebook to condone the use of “husband” and “wife” for married gay couples. But since then, it seems that the Stylebook is working diligently to weed out any other social issue usages that haven’t been updated to reflect our current times.
One Stylebook editor told NPR that they would look at updating “widow” and “widower” to include gay couples. And just this week, Kathleen Carroll, the AP’s executive editor and senior vice president, wrote that the AP would no longer use the word “illegal” to describe people, only actions. Therefore, no more “illegal immigrants,” only people who have immigrated illegally. As CJR’s Peter Sterne points out, this is a victory for activists like Jose Antonio Vargas, who have been pushing for the change. (NPR’s On The Media has a nice conversation about this issue with Vargas.) I’m happy to see the AP Stylebook vigilantly watching its word choices as social minority issues evolve. Language, we all know, is vital to how the public understands changing social and political trends, and it is important that social minorities are treated fairly, especially in the framing of their own issues.
Black vs African American
Politico points out something disturbing: Bloomberg News uses “black” as a noun to describe African Americans. As in, “McGuire would allow Obama to recruit a black to represent the administration.” The National Association of Black Journalists Style Guide says, “In news copy, aim to use black as an adjective, not a noun. Also, when describing a group, use black people instead of just blacks.” But Bloomberg only uses African American as a noun when describing immigrants and first-generation Americans. As Politico points out, that means that Barack Obama would be “an African American” while Michelle Obama would be “a black.” Using “black” as a noun this way is often offensive to black people, because it reduces them to their color — when have you ever heard someone referred to as “a white”?
For the record, gay people are likewise offended when one of them is called “a gay,” though “a lesbian” is perfectly fine.
Where are the Asian Voices?