Just as the country grapple with what to make of the “alt-right,” the media, too, needs a defined approach to dealing with this group/movement. John Daniszewski, vice president of standards at the Associated Press, offers a style and usage guide:
“Alt-right” (quotation marks, hyphen and lower case) may be used in quotes or modified as in the “self-described” or “so-called alt-right” in stories discussing what the movement says about itself.
Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, 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. In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.
He also laid out a succinct definition of the “alt-right”:
Again, whenever “alt-right” is used in a story, be sure to include a definition: “an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism,” or, more simply, “a white nationalist movement.”
The “alt-right” has managed to ride Donald Trump to the highest political office, doing so almost under the radar. The media deserves some of the blame for this. But now it’s time to be sober about this group. Daniszewski, although directing his comments to his colleagues at the AP, spoke to all journalists and conscientious citizens:
Finally, when writing on extreme groups, be precise and provide evidence to support the characterization.
We should not limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves, and instead should report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actual beliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them.