Switching Labels

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shakespeare's Juliet once pined for a certain man named Montague, and proclaimed that the name had nothing to do with her love for the man-- that the two were separate entities and did not affect one another. Calling a rose a rotten egg would not change her opinion about its sweet smell.

Today, many sociologists (and some everyday people) recognize that what we call something does affect how we feel about it. Journalists Karen Carmichael and Rabiah Alicia Burks recently wrote this article, commenting on the nature of the relationship between the current debate about immigration and the terms "illegal immigrants," and "illegal aliens".
The article reminds us that the term illegal never has good connotations when it is applied to a person-- it can conjure up images of hardened convicts. Alien is also a word that is only used to establish a category of other.
The authors' primary issue of concern, however, is not the application of the words "illegal", and "alien". It is the use of the two terms by journalists.
With the advent of the internet and all the digital media that accompanied it, journalists have gained the ability to nurture and lead labels that are reflected in society. For this reason, it is important for journalists to report without bias.
Unfortunately, the terms that journalists have chosen in this case are not bipartisan.
I agree with Otto Santa Ana's suggestion that journalists use less biased phrases, like "unauthorized immigrant," which still accurately reflects the status of the immigrants. And of course, I don't think that only journalists have made a mistake here.
Anyone entering into the debate needs to first, recognize that not all unauthorized immigrants are Hispanic. And secondly, people must recognize that terms in a debate do affect outcomes.
Photo courtesy of FreeRepublic.com, via CreativeCommons.org.


Jerry Morton, a Great Photojournalist

Jerry Lee Morton, an editorial-page editor and photojournalist for the Enquirer in the 1970s, died this Jan. 24 at the age of 67.

His death took place at his East Lansing residence.

Through Jerry many learned it was important to relax, laugh and observe people with a good-natured curiosity, he was truly inspirational.

During his time at the Enquirer he wore a newsboy hat and was tall and gangly always holding his pencil and notebook with a big smile on his face. People in small-town Michigan always seemed happy to see him.

Morton would also, from time to time, engage in a "walk through spring" hiking through the area, meeting, photographing and writing about people along the way.

Morton taught journalism at Michigan State University after leaving the newspaper.

Along with teaching Morton gathered some of his greatest Enquirer columns into three paperbacks, which he sold to his admirers.

Morton had many hobbies, one of which, was traveling. He spent substantial time in Mexico and Romania, where he published photo-essay books of people he met in both places.

Among his many accomplishments Morton had a doctorate in journalism. A list of his accomplishments can be seen at lsj.com under his obituary.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Jason Perkins


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