update desk

‘The’ is out at the Associated Press

But the wire’s authoritative stylebook remains mum on “the Jews.”

Gene Hackman as Detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in the 1971 film "The French Connection." Source: Twitter.
Gene Hackman as Detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in the 1971 film "The French Connection." Source: Twitter.

“The Associated Press Stylebook”—often referred to as the “journalist’s bible”—raised online eyebrows when it posted a tweet on Jan. 26 recommending “avoiding general and often dehumanizing ‘the’ labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college-educated.”

Instead, the news agency prescribed “wording such as people with mental illnesses,” used “only when clearly relevant.”

By the next day, AP had deleted the tweet and added an apology. “We deleted an earlier tweet because of an inappropriate reference to French people. We did not intend to offend,” it tweeted. “Writing French people, French citizens, etc., is good. But ‘the’ terms for any people can sound dehumanizing and imply a monolith rather than diverse individuals.”

The correction drew a variety of jovial responses, including from National Review writer Charles C. W. Cooke, who tweeted that the wire, to be an accountable ally, needed to name the responsible party, so the latter could resign and “donate at least $5,000 to the French Foreign Legion.” Douglas Blair, a producer and special correspondent with “O’Connor Tonight” on the Salem News Channel, added that the AP was “surrendering harder than the French.”

Jokes aside, however, several Twitter users raised questions about the degree to which it is appropriate to refer to “the Jew” or “the Jews.” The Associated Press did not respond immediately to a JNS query.

As recently as Jan. 18, an AP story about newly-discovered Warsaw Ghetto photos includes the phrase “photos capturing the Jews being deported.”

A Dec. 17 AP story also referred to “the Jews,” and an AP story on Sept. 24, 2019 used the phrase “the Jews” four times: twice quoting Mahatma Gandhi, but the other two times in the article body.

A sitewide search of The New York Times online yielded about 18,100 results for the phrases “the Jew” and “the Jews,” and the same search of The Washington Post website yielded some 5,600 results.

“The Associated Press Stylebook” online also uses the phrase in several entries.

The one on “messiah” obliges capitalization in religious uses “such as references to the promised deliverer of the Jews or to Jesus in Christianity.” The Purim entry notes the holiday commemorates “Esther’s deliverance of the Jews in Persia from a massacre plotted by Haman.” And the Sukkot holiday commemorates “the desert wandering of the Jews during the Exodus,” according to the stylebook.

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