Skip to main content

Associated Press Mulls Future of R-Word In Stylebook

The Associated Press is mulling over what to do with the word 'redskin' in its stylebook.

A hot topic this past week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the annual convention of the American Copy Editors Society was usage of the R-word as dictated by the Associated Press. The AP is considering how and if the stylebook committee will address the term in the 2015 update.

More than 20 mainstream news organizations and journalists already oppose and refuse to use the term, based on historical context and its offensiveness to Native Americans, and that number is rapidly growing.

A ruling from the AP against usage would amount to a huge step forward in removing the term from colloquial language altogether. The AP has “around 1,400 U.S. daily newspaper members and thousands of television and radio broadcast members,” according to their website. In addition, nearly every English-language news organization in the world adheres closely to its standards and it serves as the basis of journalism education around the world.

David Minthorn, co-editor of the AP Stylebook, said the R-word, particularly as used by the Washington NFL team, is an “active topic” of interest to the committee, and changes could come in May with the 2015 update. The committee meets weekly between October and March to discuss annual updates.

Mary Hudetz, president of the Native American Journalists Association, tweeted about the news on Friday.

Chelsey Luger. Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio.

NAJA has repeatedly voiced support of disallowing the term and changing the name.

The term is currently still allowed by the AP, but organizations and individual journalists are free to stray from AP decisions at their discretion. This also means that even if the AP ruled against usage, organizations are still free to choose to print or broadcast the R-word.

The fight against the term has been ongoing for decades, but has recently picked up momentum. Most notably, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled six federal trademarks held by the team in June of last year. The USPTO said the term is "disparaging to Native Americans."

Usage of the term has also been the basis of an ongoing legal battle between administrators and student journalists at Neshaminy High School in Langhorne, Pennysylvania after the student staff announced they would no longer be printing the word, which is their school mascot.

The University of Oklahoma’s student newspaper, the Oklahoma Daily, also announced their decision to no longer use the word.