Rutgers writer: I was fired after using ‘illegal immigrants’ in column
NEW BRUNSWICK — A student columnist for Rutgers' student newspaper claims he was fired for questioning the choice to edit out the term "illegal immigrants" from one of his pieces.
Aviv Khavich, who is originally from Israel, told New Jersey 101.5 he was writing about a rally held on campus by a group called "Undocurutgers" in support of immigrants to protest pro-Donald Trump "chalkings" written on sidewalks around the Rutgers campus.
"I am an immigrant so I decided to write an article to give my perspective," he said.
Khavich, a sophomore computer science and computer engineering major, said "illegal alien" and "illegal immigrant" in the column for the Daily Targum were changed to "undocumented immigrant." He said editors had done so citing Associated Press style guidelines, which most newspapers follow at least in part.
The Associated Press stylebook, stresses that the term "illegal" should only only be used to describe an action, not a person. For instance, under AP style guidelines, a newspaper could say a person immigrated illegally, but could not call that person an illegal immigrant.
But it also rejects "undocumented" as imprecise — meaning the Targum's use of "undocumented" also violates AP style.
"Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented," the AP wrote in a 2013 blog post on the matter.
"You're supposed to specifically talk about how they came into the country," Khavich said. "The thing is, that's not how adjectives work. We need them to describe the group at large that is in the United States residing illegally. And the most accurate term is the what the federal government uses, which is 'illegal alien.' 'Illegal immigrants' is also fairly accurate."
Khavich said he was invited to join the 147-year-old publication.as a "prolific writer" after writing a few "commentaries" last school year
In a column Khavich wrote about his experience with the Targum for The Tab, the said Editor in Chief Daniel Corey told him that 'disparaging the Targum … (was) grounds for termination' but he was unaware of the policy.
In an email, Corey wrote that Khavich's column was discontinued "because he continuously took issue with small edits to his columns that were either for stylistic purposes, or for the purpose of fitting his column into the print edition of The Daily Targum. It was also brought about by his continuously disrespectful behavior toward The Targum's editorial staff."
Khavich said he only interacted with one editor, the opinions editor, "and I was never disrespectful." He said he was only trying to "better understand the thought process and I was never accusatory" in his tone.
Corey told New Jersey 101.5 'Illegal alien" was changed to 'undocumented immigrant' for stylistic purposes.
"As an educational resource for aspiring journalists at Rutgers, The Targum seeks to emulate the copy-editing practices of professional outlets such as The Chicago Tribune, USA Today and The Los Angeles Times. The phrase 'undocumented immigrant' is currently preferred by these three, along with many other professional news organizations," Corey wrote.
He continued: "In the article that you probably saw, one of the screenshots he provides shows that I said, 'Your column's termination was brought about by behavior that would not be tolerated by any organization, not because of any views you displayed in your column.'"
Corey said that another conservative writer has already replaced Khavich.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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