Posted in Behind the News

How to describe those who seized wildlife refuge

, by Tom Kent

We’ve had several inquiries about the terms we use to describe the people who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.


In breaking news, AP’s goals are speed, accuracy and precision.

These goals are best advanced by using detailed, specific language.

Therefore, we feel the best terms for the armed men who took over the wildlife refuge are “armed men,” “armed ranchers” and so forth.

We also continue in each story to make their demands clear: that ranchers and others be free to use the federal lands in question without federal oversight.

We’re trying to avoid terms like “militia” and “militiamen,” though they have appeared in some of our past stories.

AP content must be clear for readers around the world, and “militiamen” may be confusing — readers might think that the people involved are members of a government-sanctioned paramilitary force who are rebelling against government authority.


Ammon Bundy, center, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, walks off after speaking with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, near Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)