Reuters Jerusalem Editor Jeffrey
Heller's use of the word homosexual in coverage of a deadly attack
on a gay club in Tel Aviv hints at a bit of homophobia.
In reporting on the attack from
Jerusalem, Heller's unnecessary use of the word homosexual in the
story's initial paragraph left us waiting for the second shoe to
“Israel's gay community was rocked on
Sunday by the killing of two people in a homosexual and lesbian youth
center and the possibility they fell victim to a hate crime in the
Jewish state's most freewheeling city,” Heller wrote in an article
titled Israeli Gays' Safe Haven Turns Deadly.
The article ran in the Washington
Post, as well as other publications.
One commenter fretted: “I'm sure the
writer is ordinarily very skilled, but in this case he failed to
consult a dictionary (and perhaps [he] slipped the copy editor a
drink instead of having him/her do their job). Lesbians are
homosexual by definition. So 'homosexual and lesbian' is redundant.”
More likely, however, the use of the
word homosexual here is a reference to gay men. A choice not
approved by most style guides.
The Associated Press style guide
suggests writers avoid the use of the word homosexual except “in
clinical contexts or references to sexual activity.” Reuters
handbook for writers does not limit the use of the word, but would
not approve of Heller's writing: “The word [homosexual] applies to
both men and women, not just to men. Therefore do not write
homosexuals and lesbians, although you can refer to homosexual men
Heller is a skilled reporter who
started his journalism career at the Jerusalem Post in 1980 after
completing a degree in English literature and Television and Cinema
at Tel Aviv University. He currently lives in Jerusalem.