Word choice matters

WORD CHOICE MATTERS…. Under the circumstances, how one chooses to label the Park51 project matters in shaping public attitudes. With that in mind, the AP is clearly doing the right thing, making up for some misleading headlines.

The Associated Press, one of world’s most powerful news organizations, issued a memo today advising staff to avoid the phrase “Ground Zero mosque.”

The Upshot reported Tuesday that the AP started using the phrase “Ground Zero mosque” in some headlines in late May. The New York Times, for one, has consciously avoided that phrasing.

The AP began using the phrase as the controversy over the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque in Lower Manhattan started bubbling up to the national level…. Now the news organization is taking steps to make sure that no longer occurs.

This would have been even more helpful, say, a few weeks ago, before so many Americans became enraged by a proposal that doesn’t exist, but I suppose it’s better late than never.

I do sympathize with headline writers. “Muslim community center in shut-down clothing store” isn’t exactly punchy. Hell, the accurate description immediately invalidates the basis for the entire controversy, making the argument rather pointless.

But as long as the matter remains a subject of intense national scrutiny, and developers are calling the proposed building “Park51,” that should make it easier for editors looking for something easy to call it.