Why Snopes Now Capitalizes 'Black' When Referring to People

A humbling reminder that we have more work to do on this front.

Published June 26, 2020

My husband and I met at a newspaper 22 years ago. He was a proud Blasian (half Black, half Korean) who worked in tech support, and I was a proud "McTalian" (half Italian, half Irish) who was new to editing/management. Albert told me he asked the copy desk, where writing style standards are vetted and enforced, why "black" was lowercased when referring to such Americans. He was told that's Associated Press style, and that the newspaper (like most papers) followed AP style. Period.

Flash forward to spring 2020. I'm now vice president of editorial at Snopes. In the heat of the George Floyd anti-police-brutality protests across the world, several editors and reporters at Snopes raised the same question to me. We generally follow AP style at Snopes but have no formal copy desk, so I did what we often do in the newsroom: sent around a short survey asking for everyone's thoughts.

The general consensus was swift: Black people in the U.S represent a distinct culture and population as a proper noun and therefore warranted capitalization, not just for precision and accuracy in our reporting but for dignity.

We instituted the style change immediately on June 8 — and The Associated Press later came to the same decision. It was a visceral reminder why I like working at Snopes: We don't operate by rule of orthodoxy or tradition, and we try hard to let the best ideas win, regardless of who (or what) presents them. It's also a humble reminder we have more work to do on this front around potentially outdated references to other groups and identities. We'll keep you posted on that progress here.

Doreen Marchionni is Snopes' executive editor/managing editor. She's a big fan of public-powered news agendas and team-based, bottom-up newsroom management.