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NPR: He’s “Mr. Obama” to us

It seems that NPR listeners are grumbling again about the network’s practice of calling President Obama “Mr. Obama,” rather than using “President” on a consistent basis.

“A number of listeners have written in recent weeks complaining that NPR reporters refer to President Obama as ‘Mr. Obama’,” notes NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos. But “since the mid-1970s it has been NPR’s policy to refer to the president as ‘Mr.’ instead of ‘President’ on second reference.”

Actually, calling presidents “Mr.” is a good idea. The ordinary salutation removes the aura of royalty from our chief executive, which was sort of the point of the American Revolution, as I recall. Perhaps NPR could use both terms, as did  Marilyn Monroe on JFK’s 1962 birthday (“Happy birrrthday, Mr. President  . . . “)?

But all Camelot nostalgia aside, Schumacher-Matos cites NPR story instances of “Mr.” going back to “Mr.” Clinton and “Mr.” George H.W. Bush.

The post also notes that NPR listeners have been angry about this issue for several years, and some don’t care if the news service has always handled the matter this way.

“It has not been any more respectable to call Presidents Bush, Clinton, Ford, Carter or Reagan ‘Mr.’ than to call President Obama so,” wrote one listener back in 2009.

Then NPR senior vice president Ellen Weiss responded that the network maintains the practice to be consistent. “We think this policy is as appropriate for President Obama as it has been for previous presidents and don’t see any compelling reason to change it,” Weiss explained.

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