The BBC publishes its guidelines for language in coverage of the Mideast (yes, you already know they don’t like the word “terrorist”). Simon Wilson writes about it on the BBC Editors’ blog:

Although initially a little sceptical, the more I think about it, the happier I am that we are publishing this guide to the public. BBC journalists, whether they are in Israel, the Palestinian Territories or London, put an enormous amount of thought and effort into trying to get these things right. And if this shows just a glimpse of that to the people we are reporting to, it may prove a very useful exercise.

  • The BBC has been doing this for a while
    George Orwell wrote in 1944:

    Nearly all human beings feel that a thing becomes different if you call it by a different name. Thus when the Spanish civil war broke out the B.B.C. produced the name “Insurgents” for Franco’s followers. This covered the fact that they were rebels while making the rebellion sound respectable.

  • If only American news organizations were so thoughtful and so careful in their work. Do you think they agonize in the same way over stuff like this at Fox or Good Morning America?

  • Rich Banner

    @ Michael,


  • kat

    Meanwhile, they try to hide the truth–that they are biased.

  • Publicly funded organisations like the BBC should assume their job is to be open.

    However I understand the downside of revealing all. Should a reporter choose to deviate from guidelines to improve the way they communicate with the audience it may invite a maelstrom of criticism which is hard to defend.

    Prescribed language tends to become meaningless.

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