Immigration Reform 2013: Fox News Needs a Lesson in Style — AP Style, That Is

Long before the AP Stylebook publically frowned upon the use of “illegal immigrant” in the news, Fox News Latino had already nixed the term from the beginning. The strange thing, however, is that nobody seemed to tell the folks over at the network’s main broadcast.

When Fox News Latino was first introduced in 2011, a major goal was to appeal to Latino voters. Despite what Republicans believe to be similarities between conservative values and common values among Latinos (Christianity, traditional families,), exit polls from the 2012 presidential election showed over 70% of Latino voters rooting for President Obama — and in turn helping him secure a second term.

Debate over the term “illegal immigrant” picked up traction on Fox News (and additional attention pretty much everywhere) in February after Congressman John Conyers(D-Mich.) began a discussion on immigration policy at the House Judiciary Committee by saying, “I hope nobody uses the term ‘illegal immigrants’ here today … the people in this country are not illegal. They’re out of status; they’re new Americans that are immigrants, and I think we can forge a path to citizenship that will be able to pass muster.”

Oh, the wrath that followed.

“If I have a gun illegally, are you just going to call me and my gun ‘out of status?’ Of course not! Democrats are going to say, ‘that’s illegal, you’re a criminal,’” said one regular commentator. “Everything’s offensive to Democrats... Everything offends them. Anything that they disagree with, they will find a way to say that it’s racist.”

Though Conyers hadn’t mentioned race or Latinos, Fox was quick to draw a link between his statements and the immigration status of Latinos trying to become US citizens. On the Fox New Latino site, however, virtually no stories could be found about Conyers’ assertions on immigration status, which is strange considering how much Eric Bolling seems to think Conyers’ statements inherently relates to Latinos.

Furthermore, stories about immigration posted on the Fox New Latino site have seldom, if ever, used the term “illegal immigrant” in their coverage.

All of this lends itself to the bigger problem, bigger than basic contradictions in AP Style, concerning the division of Fox News Latino within the bigger Fox News machine. There are media outlets today and throughout all of history that cater to news peaking the interests of any community, culture, subculture, and demographic that exists. Different ages, religions, professions, and on and on and on have different outlets, and it’s a great thing.

There is no flaw in the idea of a news network catering to a particular ethnicity, but the trouble comes when it is used more as a form of propaganda; when it is used to publish stories under a pretense of informing, or empowering, yet in reality lacks a consistent sincerity aligned with the network’s parent brand.

One underlying message to take away from the AP Stylebook, and from Conyers’ remarks, is that the term “illegal immigrant” can be an alienating one, which is something Fox keeps in mind when writing for their Latino audience. But if that’s the case, then what audience are they catering to the rest of the time?