How should NPR refer to President Bush?





Many ask why NPR refers to the president of the United States as "Mr. Bush" on second reference, instead of "President Bush" in all cases? Some listeners, like Tom King, insist this sounds insufficiently respectful.


Frequently on NPR news shows, reports dealing with the U.S. president refer to him as "President Bush" once, but then all additional references are to "Mr. Bush". This seems unique to the president, as other people with titles are always addressed as Sen. Smith or Dr. Jones, etc. Is there a reason why President Bush does not get the same consideration?

Using the Honorific

The title, such as "President," "Mr." or "Ms.", in front of a name is called an honorific. NPR uses the honorific "President" on first reference and then "Mr." for all subsequent mentions. This has been NPR's style going back at least to the Ford administration. Most other broadcasters have the same policy. It also makes for better writing to vary the honorific.

Newspapers seem to have a different standard. For some reason, the president is usually referred to as "President Bush" or "the president," on first reference. But the honorific is rarely used on second reference. And in newspaper headlines particularly, the solitary "Bush" is often seen.

The president is the only person who -- by decree and tradition at NPR -- gets the honorific. All others who are mentioned in news reports are usually referred to by their title or occupation on first reference ("Jane Doe is a reporter for The New York Times..."). After that, it's surnames only.


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