Last week the Associated Press (AP) notified its constituents of a new entry in the AP Stylebook. This new entry addresses the appropriate use of the terms husband and wife. The text of the entry is:
husband, wife Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.
This entry has been officially added to the online version of the AP Stylebook and will appear in the print edition later this spring.
The Associated Press is perhaps the most influential news organization in the world. Their stories and photos have run in news outlets since 1846. The AP Stylebook (first published in 1953 and updated annually) serves as the standard style guide for journalists. As a result, the choices the Stylebook makes in the use of language impact how readers and listeners of news media will view issues.
In a press release on the new Stylebook entry, Mike Oreskes, AP Senior Managing Editor for U.S. News, stated,
The AP has never had a Stylebook entry on the question of the usage of husband and wife. All the previous conversation was in the absence of such a formal entry. This lays down clear and simple usage. After reviewing existing practice, we are formalizing ‘husband, wife’ as an entry.
I find the comment by Mr. Oreskes to be quite interesting. For 50 years, the Associated Press had never seen a reason to post an entry regarding the usage of husband and wife. However, now they determine there is a need for such an entry, and it reflects a change to the long held understanding of marriage in our society. I would argue that the reason no entry was needed previously is that society at large clearly understood the meaning and usage of husband and wife. A husband and wife are the two individuals in a marriage. The husband is male, and the wife is female. It was understood that a husband would have a wife and a wife would have a husband.
However, in this age of attempts to redefine marriage, the AP has determined it will weigh in on the matter. Notice the language of the entry. It reads, “Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage.” Thus, journalists can use AP-approved style to refer to two husbands or two wives. They could, perhaps, even refer to the two individuals in a same-sex marriage as husband and wife with the approval of the couple if that is how the individuals view their roles in that “marriage.”
The AP has jumped into the fray with an agenda to normalize same-sex marriage in society through the use of language in journalism. What I find ironic in all of this is the tag at the end of the press release describing the AP. It reads:
The Associated Press is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. Founded in 1846, AP today is the most trusted source of independent news and information. On any given day, more than half the world’s population sees news from AP. On the Web: www.ap.org.
There are a few adjectives that the AP uses to describe itself that are violated in their latest addition to the Stylebook. They claim to be a “global news network,” to deliver “unbiased news,” and to be a “trusted source of independent news and information.”
As a “global news network,” surely the AP is aware that same-sex marriage is not a global norm. In fact, most of the world does not recognize same-sex marriage as legitimate. Delivering “unbiased news” means that it is free of political agendas, yet there is hardly a more vocal political group than the homosexual community attempting to normalize their lifestyle. Finally, a “trusted source of independent news and information” will refrain from promoting a particular viewpoint over other valid options. In making this change to the Stylebook, the Associated Press has violated all three of these descriptions for its own mission.
The normalization of same-sex marriage (and homosexuality in general) has been a goal of the homosexual community for decades. They have often found a sympathetic ear among journalists, especially those whose politics lean to the left. However, they have now found support from the “essential global news network” known as the Associated Press. Despite the fact that the AP claims to be unbiased and independent, it has now voiced an opinion in this matter. The opinion was placed in the most subtle of places—a journalistic style manual. I dare say this was not by accident. Why make a public policy statement when you can simply change the use of language?
In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” As Christians, we tend to do fairly well on being “innocent as doves,” but we often lack the shrewdness of serpents. This is a time when we need to be shrewd and attentive to our culture so that we are prepared to defend the biblical model of marriage as it is being attacked on all sides.
“New entry in the AP Stylebook: husband, wife,” Associated Press, February 21, 2013.
*Special thanks to Benjamin Hawkins, Senior Writer in the Office of Communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, for bring this announcement to my attention.