Santa Barbara newspaper’s headline draws protests

Graffiti is splattered on the entrance to the Santa Barbara News-Press building in Santa Barbara.
Graffiti is splattered on the entrance to the Santa Barbara News-Press building in Santa Barbara.
(Scott Steepleton / Associated Press)
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A provocative headline about immigrants being permitted to obtain driver’s licenses has put a Santa Barbara newspaper in the middle of a community controversy.

Scores of protesters marched outside the Santa Barbara News Press offices after the paper’s Thursday edition carried the headline “Illegals line up for driver’s licenses.”

Police in Santa Barbara said protest messages in red paint were also scrawled on the side of the newspaper’s offices.


Protesters marched in front of the newspaper Thursday, saying they were angered by the Jan. 3 headline for a story about immigrants who live in the U.S. illegally being allowed to apply for special state-issued licenses. The law went into effect Jan. 1.

The Santa Barbara News Press did not return requests for comment.

Organized by a group called People Organizing for the Defense and Equal Rights of Santa Barbara Youth, the group said it would continue its protests until the newspaper changes the headline.

The group also urged the newspaper to adopt Associated Press Stylebook practices in describing the immigrants.

“We demand accountability and higher journalistic standards from the local media when covering the affairs of Latino immigration,” the group said.

In an article published Friday, the News-Press said that Don Katich, director of news operations, had released a statement this week, defending the use of the word.

In the statement, Katich said the word was an “appropriate term in describing someone as illegal if they are in this country illegally,” adding that the News-Press has used the word for 10 years.


“Ours is a system of laws, a system so valued that people from around the world - including many from lawless nations - flock here,” he wrote in the statement.

He concluded his statement in saying, “When breaking the law becomes the norm, America is no better than other lawless nations.”

The article went on and broke down how and why Associated Press style is used, saying its members aren’t obligated to follow it.

The AP Stylebook says the preferred use of the word “illegal” “should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”

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