NHMC Disappointed with The New York Times’ Policy to Continue Using the Word “Illegal”

Apr 24, 2013
2:07 PM

The National Hispanic Media Coalition published the following release today:


Pasadena, CA – The New York Times announced an update to its policies on how it uses the phrase “illegal immigrant” in its coverage. The newspaper will continue to allow the phrase, but it encourages reporters and editors to “consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions.”

Philip B. Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards, who oversees The Times’s style manual, said in a statement that editors had spent months deliberating the updated style change. “Advocates on one side of this political debate have called on news organizations to use only the terms they prefer,” Mr. Corbett said. “But we have to make those decisions for journalistic reasons alone, based on what we think best informs our readers on this important topic.” He added: “It’s not our job to take sides.”

The following statement can be attributed to Alex Nogales, President & CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition:

“We are very disappointed at The New York Times position to continue sanctioning the word “illegal,” a word that implies criminality and has become a racial slur. Language does evolve.  In the past, we’ve seen words dropped by media outlets when they are harmful. One example is the success that the LGBT community had with the word “homosexual,” major media outlets heard the LGBT community and stopped using this word.  Mr. Corbett states that media’s job is not to take sides, but in effect The New York Times is taking a side when it continues to use a word that has lost any descriptive meaning and is used by anti-immigrants to impugn immigrants.”

NHMC is a core member of the “Drop the i-Word” campaign coalition.  As part of this campaign, Alex Nogales has met with editors at the AP, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times to ask them to stop using “illegal” to refer to immigrants.

In 2012, NHMC commissioned a national poll that confirmed that media is hugely influential in shaping opinions about Latinos. The poll found that in discussing those in this country without documentation, the term “illegal alien” elicited negative feelings and contributed to the negative opinions of the Latinos community.