Why is it Mr. Obama?

Our website has received plenty of e-mails from people saying Barack Obama is the president; he should be referred to that way. Some of our viewers have even suggested there must be a bias there because we don't use the title every time we refer to Barack Obama.

We've aired stories that contain sentences like this:

Reporter: "presidential persuasion is Mr. Obama's strategy."
Reporter: "speaking from the east room of the White House, Mr. Obama urged congress..."

It’s the title "Mister Obama" that has many viewers writing into our newsroom. One e-mail says we are "extremely disrespectful" by using Mister. Another says he is the president and we should refer to him that way. And yet another email suggests we must not be fond of the president if we refer to him as mister.

But the fact is journalistic style dictates that we can use Mister in a second reference after using "president" first.

Here is some news copy from a report on President Bush's last speech from the White House.

Reporter: “It was President Bush's chance to have the last word....Mr. Bush defended his record"

Even conservative newspapers like the Wall Street Journal use Mr. when referring to the president.

The reference is from the Associated Press Style Book. It's used at journalism schools throughout the country, including the Reynolds School of Journalism at U-N-R.

"The AP Style Books is to provide consistency in how the news is presented." says journalism professor Rosemary McCarthy

Journalism students use the style book to guide them for both newspaper and broadcast writing. Upper classmen in the journalism department here say the Presidential reference is one of the first things you learn to show respect for the office.

Journalism Student Peter Boskovich is a Senior at UNR.

“I mean considering what I have heard on 24 hours news quite a bit, they've said much worse." says Boskovich

Lorriane Tornquist, another senior, observes the style book says you can just use the president's last name in the second reference if you choose.

“Actually I find it more respectful for us to still use mister than just Obama."

Heather Horn says she was brought up in a conservative household and believed the press was being hard on President Bush when they referred to him as Mr. But then she got into journalism school

"They are doing it for Obama. There is no disrespect or bias intended here. That's just how the style is." Horn says

George Washington was the first to ask that the president be referred to as Mister President. That was instead of titles like "His Majestic Excellency" suggested by contemporaries like John Adams.


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