05/02/2013 08:59 am ET

LA Times Drops 'Illegal Immigrant,' 'Undocumented Immigrant'

The Los Angeles Times will move away from using "illegal immigrant" and "undocumented immigrant," the newspaper announced Wednesday.

It said that it is dropping both terms in favor of describing a person's circumstances.

A staff memo from the paper's standards and practices committee explained, "'Illegal immigrants' is overly broad and does not accurately apply in every situation. The alternative suggested by the 1995 guidelines, 'undocumented immigrants,' similarly falls short of our goal of precision. It is also untrue in many cases, as with immigrants who possess passports or other documentation but lack valid visas."

Deirdre Edgar, the Times readers' representative, wrote Thursday that the some of the paper's writers already avoid "illegal immigrant," though the written guidelines have just now been updated.

The paper cited the Associated Press dropping "illegal immigrant" in April in its announcement.

The AP's new style entry instructs reporters to describe how someone entered the country, and has had far-reaching ramifications for the media industry. The New York Times also tweaked its entry, though it did not ban "illegal immigrant." Rather, the paper's stylebook now says to "consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question."

The LA Times said that the standards and practices committee had been meeting with journalists and advocates for ending the use of "illegal immigrant" since last fall. It had announced earlier this month that editors were considering revising the policy in the wake of the AP's changes.



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