Earlier this week, the Associated Press issued new guidance about what language to use when referring to married same-sex couples, suggesting “couples” or “partners” is “generally” is appropriate instead of “husbands” and “wives” like for opposite-sex spouses. This codified factual inaccuracy has caused a much-deserved uproar, including among AP reporters like David Crary who refuse to use the second-class vocabulary. The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association objected to the AP Stylebook editor for imposing a “double standard,” but it seems the AP isn’t budging, according to spokesman Paul Colford:
COLFORD: This week’s style guidance reaffirmed AP’s existing practice. We’ve used husband and wife in the past for same-sex married couples and have made clear that reporters can continue to do so going forward.
Blogger John Aravosis thinks this is a lose-lose position for AP. AP Style is an industry standard for professional journalists, and the whole point of such a standard is consistency. In this case, the stated rule is simply wrong — or at best, antiquated — because AP would never suggest using “partners” for opposite-sex couples. Apparently, reporters have a choice, which really means there’s no standard at all. This begs the question of why AP issued the guidance this week to begin with; if the Stylebook is fine with calling husbands “husbands” and wives “wives,” there is no logic in a rule suggesting they ‘generally” should be called something else.
AP has clearly just gotten this wrong. As is the expected practice for professional journalists, it should print a retraction for the inaccurate guidance and correct the mistake.