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Why The Times Calls Trump ‘Mr.’
Wed Nov 8, 2017 2:07pm
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(No, We’re Not Being Rude)

https://nyti.ms/2jaTd9Z


The Reader Center is a newsroom initiative that is helping The Times build deeper ties with our audience.

We have asked our standards editor, Phil Corbett, to explain our use of honorifics.

Readers occasionally express concern about articles referring to the president as “Mr. Trump.”

They believe it is disrespectful to call him “Mr.” rather than “President” Trump, and some suggest that our doing so is a sign of political bias. “It’s President Trump, not Mr. Trump,” wrote one reader who uses the name Batman (you read that right) in the comments section. “If we’re really going to bad mouth the President of the United States, why don’t we at least learn his title.”

The complaint isn’t new to me. For years, we got complaints that our references to “Mr. Obama” betrayed our disrespect for him. And before that, “Mr. Bush” made some readers suspect that we were showing our disdain for that president.

I’m not sure whether one of my long-ago predecessors got similar complaints about The Times’s references to “Mr. Lincoln.” But I can assure readers that we have been consistent for many years in how we refer to an incumbent president: It’s “President Trump” (or President Obama, or President Bush) on first reference, and “Mr. Trump” or “the president” (lowercase) thereafter.

No disrespect is intended.

In fact, most news organizations dispense with the “Mr.” altogether and simply call the president “Trump” after the first reference. The Times is among the few outlets still using courtesy titles like “Mr.” or “Ms.” (with exceptions in our sports coverage and a few other areas). Some readers (me included) like the tone of civility and seriousness the titles convey; others find them old-fashioned and stodgy. And still others are just confused.

Besides questions about the president, readers have asked about our references to the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, as “Mr. Kelly.” As a retired Marine officer, these readers say, he should be “General Kelly.”

In most cases, The Times follows tradition and continues to use the titles General and Admiral for retired military officers. But we make an exception for those who take high-level civilian positions in government — the chief of staff is “Mr. Kelly” after the first reference; the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, also a retired Marine general, is “Mr. Mattis.” (With this, too, we take a bipartisan approach: The retired Army general David Petraeus was “Mr. Petraeus” as C.I.A. director in the Obama administration.)

The idea is to avoid confusion and make it clear that the official is serving in a civilian role, not a military one. By contrast, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, is still “General McMaster” because he remains on active duty in the Army.

Questions also arise about titles for medical doctors. Our style is to use “Dr.” only for those whose medical practice remains their primary occupation. That means doctors-turned-politicians get “Mr.” or “Ms.,” not “Dr.” Here, too, the practice is nonpartisan. Howard Dean, a doctor, former Vermont governor and onetime Democratic candidate for president, is “Mr. Dean” for us, and Senator Rand Paul, a Republican and ophthalmologist, is “Mr. Paul.”

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