Editor’s Scratchpad

Monday, October 1, 2001

A terrorist by any other name ...

Some news organizations have decided to restrict the use of the word "terrorist" to direct quotes, out of an allegedly duty-driven need to be fair and objective.

For now, the term "alleged hijackers" seems to be preferred because, as a CNN spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal, a news organization "cannot convict anybody; nothing has been judged by a court of law."


KSSK AM/FM morning show co-host Michael W. Perry called the decision "political correctness gone awry."

Staff members at the Star-Bulletin have suggested alternates. An editor said a terrorist act would by definition -- not subjective judgment -- be committed by a terrorist. A colleague who lives here "at the pleasure of these United States," and who asked not to be identified, suggested the term "murderous wogs."

Considering that eyewitnesses called via cellular phone from inside the ill-fated jetliners to provide crucial information to the government and news organizations that day and since, it's hard to know what term would satisfy journalists who take themselves far too seriously.

Erika Engle

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