In a Chicago Tribune story, "Immigration grabs Capitol Hill spotlight," Joseph Tanfani writes about the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform:
With [attorney general nominee Jeff] Sessions posed to be an influential voice on immigration policy in the Trump administration, these formerly fringe groups have their best chance yet to see Washington policy turn decisively in their direction. [Emphasis added.]
Fringe? I'm not here to defend their positions, but I'm here to object on journalistic principles to the use of the descriptive "fringe." Is it fringe to argue that people who have entered America illegally should be deported? Or that they should not have been allowed in in the first place? Is it not legitimate to argue about what level of legal immigration should be allowed? (Can anyone on either say exactly how many legal immigrants are allowed into America, and on what basis? The nation's immigration laws are nearly incomprehensible.)
These are legitimate policy issues that ought not be discredited by labelling them "fringe." If so, America's Voice that "argues for a path to citizenship for immigrants here illegally" (as Tanfani described the group) also must be labeled "fringe."
Calling someone "fringe" is not the worst thing in the world. But it carries a negative connotation that does not belong in an "objective" news story. As someone who has spent a long career working for the Chicago Daily News, Sun-Times and Tribune, I worry about my profession: Its sloppy use of words and its failure to recognize how it damages its own credibility.
(I tried to link to Tanfani's story, but I couldn't find it on the Tribune's website. I'm quoting from a front-page story in the print edition this morning.)