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Opening Arguments

Mr. President

Earlier this week, a letter writer chided us for a perceived slight of the president:

The May 29 editorial titled, “Fair or not, it's Mr. Obama's oil spill now,” does not follow The News-Sentinel's usual journalism conventions. During previous administrations, this paper has consistently, respectfully referred to the head of our country with the title of “President.” Why is this article titled this way?

Anybody want to take a crack at why it was "titled" that way? Don't overthink it.

For what it's worth, we've used both "President" and "Mr." in editorials for every president we've written about since I've been here. Both seem respectful for me. The Associated Press guidelines (which we use) call for just the last name with no title on second reference, the same for the president as for any other person. Now, that shows a certain lack of respect, but not an amount that can't be defended in a country dedicated to equal treatment.

Give up? "Mr." fit in the headline. "President" woudldn't have.


Lewis Allen
Thu, 06/17/2010 - 7:28pm

I've never been bothered by that particular usage, unless it's used exclusively. Then it could, I guess, be perceived as a slight. When 'Mr. Clinton' was used a lot, I figured it was just because of the assonance that gives it a certain ring.