The newsroom received a very angry e-mail last night on a topic that’s come up more often during President Barack Obama’s presidency than it did during the presidency of President George W. Bush. The viewer is quite upset that Mr. Obama was referred to as Mr. Obama.
HE is NOT Mr. Obama…and in fact — EVEN before he became OUR PRESIDENT…he was NOT then Mr. Obama…but
rather he WAS SENATOR OBAMA…and now that he is OUR PRESIDENT…he should ALWAYS be REFERRED to as
PRESIDENT OBAMA…or President Barack Obama…those are the ONLY ways to refer to him!!!
First, let me note that I did not change any capitalization in that sentence. Her e-mail is filled with shouted words. Second, she’s wrong.
It is proper journalistic procedure to refer to the president by his full name at first reference. Thus, the first mention in a story would be President Barack Obama. It is then proper on second reference to refer to him as Mr. Obama. Thereafter, it doesn’t matter, although that’s not agreed upon by all. At third reference and beyond, he may be referred to as “the president” or simply as Obama as long as the first two references are used already.
Here’s the thing. I understand the belief that referring to the president as Mr. anything seems disrespectful. However, the president is the only person afforded this honor. All other lawmakers, for instance, as referred to at first reference by their full name. For example, Senator John McCain. For second reference and beyond, only the last name is used. Thus, it would never be Mr. McCain, as the use of Mr. is only used for the president. It would simply be McCain or the senator or perhaps Senator McCain.
CBS White House correspondent puts it better than I in this article: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500803_162-2265934-500803.html?source=search_story&tag=contentMain%3bcontentBody
Interestingly, I started my career in journalism at the start of Mr. Bush’s presidency. I wrote about him often and each and every time used the proper first and second references. I don’t recall once receiving an e-mail to the newsroom regarding references to him as Mr. Bush. Why is it more of an issue with viewers and the current president?
Posted: February 15th, 2011 under Journalism.