National Public Radio ombudsman Alicia Shepard periodically provides a glimpse into the complaints the Public Radio behemoth gets. Today we also find out that people sure have a lot of time to get worked up over things.
Although many listeners find this second reference offensive, it is not a new policy. NPR has used “Mr.” since the mid-1970s when President Gerald Ford was in office. The president is the only person who NPR routinely refers to with the Mr. honorific on second reference. If NPR does a story, say on James Hamilton, an Ohio car dealer, he will be Hamilton on second reference, not Mr. Hamilton.
Apparently, a lot of people consider it a matter of disrespect. So one wonders if the Associated Press, whose stylebook is the very bible on these matters, gets even more complaints. It says:
“On second reference, use only the last name .”
News organizations have to be very careful in these matters, for sometimes you can take the “respect thing” a little too far.
The New York Times, for example, is famous for once profiling the ’70s rock star, Meat Loaf and referring to him on second reference as Mr. Loaf.
Of course, some people would argue that’s a proper second reference for most sitting presidents.