AP ignoring its own style guide in coverage of Ferguson shooting

The Associated Press Stylebook informs the stylistic practices of a large majority of news outlets in the United States. But it now appears as though the AP is violating its own rules in the coverage of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9.

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As TheBlaze reports, the stylebook states news reports should “use man or woman for individuals 18 and older.” Brown was 18-years-old at the time of his death, and yet the AP has routinely referred to him as a “teen” or “teenager” in its photo captions, headlines, and articles.

“So they’re ignoring their own stylebook so that they can, you know, make it sound like he’s younger and he’s not, I don’t know, accountable, he’s not responsible, to add more empathy,” Pat said on radio this morning.

On Monday’s Mediaite’s Eddie Scarry published an article highlighting the AP’s inconsistencies. He cited two specific examples

Why, then, are AP reports on the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown solely referring to him as a “teen” and “teenager”?

“Don’t know’ if Missouri teen shot with hands up,” reads one AP headline from Monday. “County autopsy: Unarmed teen shot 6 to 8 times,” reads another.

According to an update on the story posted Monday night, the AP has since made changes to the two stories referenced in Scarry’s column:

UPDATE — 10:28 p.m. ET: Two of the AP stories referenced in this post were modified after this post published. One report changed the word “teen” in its headline to call Brown by his last name. The second removed the word “teen” from the body text and put “man” in its please. Neither report has an update on them with a reason for the alteration. Other reports still refer to Brown as a “teen.” We’ve once again requested comment from AP spokesman Paul Colford, who one other media reporter told us is “usually prompt” at returning media requests.

In light of the updates to the articles in question, one can’t help but wonder if the editors at the AP simply didn’t catch the errors or if they were hoping to not get caught. Regardless, it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on AP reports going forward.

“You got to ask the question: Why are [they] doing that,” Pat asked. “Why are [they] ignoring your own rules when that’s what they call for? I don’t know.”

Front page image courtesy of the AP