News outlets rethink usage of the term "alt-right"

Last Wednesday, The Washington Post circulated style guidelines for several terms, including alt-right, which it defined in part as “a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state” whose adherents are “known for espousing racist, anti-Semitic and sexist points of view.”

And on Monday, The Associated Press published its own usage guidance for the term, saying that journalists should not use the term without defining it because “it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience.”

The standards editor at NPR published a memo in mid-November titled “Guidance on References to the ‘Alt-Right,’” that encouraged an explanation of the term, and the progressive news site ThinkProgress said in a post last week that it would “no longer treat ‘alt-right’ as an accurate descriptor of either a movement or its members” because the term is used as a self-descriptor and obscures the group’s overt racism.

The Wall Street Journal has used the term, but a spokeswoman said in an email that it prefers to be “more precise about groups or individuals, reporting on their specific actions or statements.”