The foremost authority on journalistic style and standards has released a memo that appears to set different standards for gay and heterosexual couples.
Industry watchdog Jim Romenesko published a reportedly internal memo about Associated Press terminology regarding gay and lesbian married couples.
That first memo read:
SAME-SEX COUPLES: We were asked how to report about same-sex couples who call themselves “husband” and “wife.” Our view is that such terms may be used in AP stories with attribution. Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.
The AP apparently immediately updated their ruling, according to Romenesko's blog, which quoted AP spokesman Paul Colford as saying the memo was rewritten as follows:
SAME-SEX COUPLES: We were asked how to report about same-sex couples who call themselves “husband” and “wife.” Our view is that such terms may be used in AP content if those involved have regularly used those terms (“Smith is survived by his husband, John Jones”) or in quotes attributed to them. Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.
Reporting on the standards memo, Gawker's Robert Kessler said that even with the update, the memo seems to indicate "a jarring 'separate but equal' standard for married couples. As we learned with segregation, a separate standard is inherently unequal."
Earlier this year, LGBT advocates criticized the AP for prohibiting use of the word "homophobia."
The AP announced in November that its newest stylebook would ban the word in political and social contexts, according to Slate.
The AP's argument was that homophobia, strictly translated, implies that anti-gay sentiment is based in irrational fear and therefore inaccurate. But Slates' Nathaniel Frank argued that while perhaps the word should be used less carelessly, "an important body of evidence suggests that some anti-gay sentiment is a phobia, and this phobia is the basis for anti-gay policy that blocks equality for millions because of irrational fears."
The Huffington Post's own Michelangelo Signorile, Gay Voices Editor-at-Large, argued that the AP's action was inadvertently "playing into a political agenda" and "taking a side."
Not everyone felt the move was unjustified, however. National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association president Michael Triplett told Poynter that homophobia "really is not the best way to describe anti-gay actions or motives."