The LA Times is no longer going to say that looters are looting.
The newspaper’s newly updated style guide warns:
“’Looting’ is a crime that occurs only during a state of emergency (in any jurisdiction: state, county, city, etc.). Do not use it as a broad label or term for protest, burglary, theft or chaos. Because of the racial connotation and history of the word, use terms like ‘looting’ or ‘looters’ only in the context of criminal proceedings. Unless a story is specifically about looting or those charged with the crime, ‘looting’ or its derivations (‘looted,’ ‘looters’) should not be used in the story, display type (headline, captions, pull quotes, etc.), SEO type and headlines, story description, URL, social share lines, tweets or Facebook posts.”
There may be limited exceptions.
“If in doubt about whether to use ‘looting,’ talk to your immediate supervisor. There may be exceptions to this guidance, and any deviation requires a managing editor’s approval.”
The whole policy is inverse liberal racism and a euphemistic assault on the English language. Deeming “looting” a racist term attributes blackness to something that really isn’t about race.
And who says the vast majority of people these days associate black people with looting? The Los Angeles Times is assuming that its readers are racists who associate blacks with criminality.
To any objective observer, looting connotes specific forms of behavior. Interestingly, the new style guide gives examples of when not to use the word with a series of fact chains that clearly dictate it.
“When writing or talking about the actions of people in stories and visuals (photos, videos, etc.), it is best to describe what they specifically appear to be doing. Examples: 1) Some people broke into the store and stole whatever was on the shelves. 2) A group of at least 20 people threw bricks and shattered the windows of an electronics store. One woman quickly emerged with an armful of iPods. 3) Before leaving the disaster area, a man stopped by his local convenience store and, finding no one at the register, took several 12-packs of beer without paying.”
This is forcing reporters to actually write around what is actually happening. And sanitize headlines. Journalists are supposed to be pithy and summarize things. All of the above fact chains could best be summarized as “looting.”
The guide solemnly lists other words to use instead of looting.
“Other words to use in lieu of ‘looting’ in headlines could include theft, damage, break-ins, vandalism, burglaries.”
So, “looting” has been cancelled by the Los Angeles Times to extirpate racism that, in actuality, doesn’t really exist.
Anybody who actually read the LA Times in the immediate aftermath of the killing of George Floyd might conclude that looting is an equal opportunity offense. In some pictures accompanying stories about looting earlier this year the looters looked white. In another they were black.
The articles didn’t mention the race of the looters.
And while it’s true that looting is a specific criminal offense in California and elsewhere the term is defined much more broadly in dictionaries.
The policy was instigated by black LA Times staffers who complained to editor Norman Pearlstine about the word’s supposedly racist connotations.
On the PBS Newshour this June Pearlstine said: “One of the active debates we had over the past week was about the use of the word “looting” to describe the destruction of property. The feeling among the black journalists at The Los Angeles Times who frankly educated the rest of us to the fact that looting had a pejorative racist connotation and that comparing it to the kind of behavior of the police and the kind of behavior that we witnessed really was a false equivalency and yet it was one that we were making as journalists if you picked up a copy of our paper.”
It’s actually not a “fact” that looting has racist connotation. It’s an opinion that in 2020 doesn’t seem to have any solid factual basis. Or at least the LA Times hasn’t offered any to justify changing the policy.
The style guide was updated July 2. But the changes do not appear to have been reported elsewhere.
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