AP helps reporters get the NYC mosque terms right

First posted at the web site of the Washington, DC Society of Professional Journalists.

This may not be an issue that directly affects international coverage but the impact of this so-called debate reaches beyond the borders of the US of A. It is worthwhile looking at the logic behind the reasoning for the AP decision.

Associated Press editor Tom Kent sent out a memo late last week with new guidance on how — under AP Style — reporters should refer to the mosque proposed for lower Manhattan.

(You can read the memo here and Kent’s discussion of the memo on Facebook.)

Bottom line: It is NOT the “ground zero mosque” and the site under question has been used for prayers for some time already.

The site of the proposed Islamic center and mosque is not at ground zero, but two blocks away in a busy commercial area. We should continue to say it’s “near” ground zero, or two blocks away.

Kent added:

It may be useful in some stories to note that Muslim prayer services have been held since 2009 in the building that the new project will replace. The proposal is to create a new, larger Islamic community center that would include a mosque, a swimming pool, gym, auditorium and other facilities.

In his Facebook discussion, Kent said:

Incidentally, our note today represented no change in the way we’ve been writing about this case. The vast majority of our stories in recent weeks have referred to a mosque “near” ground zero, or “two blocks away.” But a few of our headlines have said “ground zero mosque,” and we felt that term wasn’t as specific as it could be.

So, can we move on and start using the correct term for the mosque, make sure we have the location correct and make sure the whole thing is put into context.

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