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(Note on Aug. 19, 2015: Go here to see our latest guidance on how to refer to ISIS/Islamic State.)
If you need a refresher about what we call the Islamist fighters in Iraq and Syria who are dominating the news these days and why they’re being referred to in different ways, Morning Edition and the Parallels blog have valuable background:
The blog adds a line about our foreign desk’s guidance regarding what to say on the air and online:
“NPR’s policy is to initially call the group ‘the self-declared Islamic State’ or some equivalent phrase, use ISIS in later references and, when necessary, explain that ISIL is another widely used acronym.”
That language was based on our internal Wiki entry:
“ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND SYRIA: On first reference, we refer to the group as the ‘self-proclaimed Islamic State’ or the militants/extremists/fighters ‘who call themselves the Islamic State.’ On second reference, it is acceptable to refer to them as ISIS. If in a report a person is heard referring to them as ISIL, we should note that is also a widely used acronym for the group.”
How does this play out?
Thursday during the 5 p.m. ET Newscast, Juana Summers’ spot from the Capitol was introduced this way:
“When President Obama outlined his strategy for combatting the threat from the so-called Islamic State, he vowed that there would be no U.S. ground troops involved. But as NPR’s Juana Summers reports, many Republicans have criticized the strategy President Obama outlined Wednesday night. They’re calling on him to lay out a more aggressive plan for military action.”
All Things Considered followed the Newscast with this:
“We begin this hour with a closer look at one element of President Obama’s strategy to take on the so-called Islamic State.”
The second ATC piece that hour was related and began like this:
“Secretary of State, John Kerry, is in Saudi Arabia today to drum up support for President Obama’s strategy to against ISIS.”
“Wait a minute,” you say, “that last one didn’t start with ‘so-called’ or ‘self-described’ or some other modifier to the name ‘Islamic State.’ Doesn’t that go against our guidelines?”
Well, there’s a reason we call them guidelines — not rules. We had just told listeners twice that this is the “so-called Islamic State” we’re reporting about. Yes, some listeners didn’t hear those references. But many, if not most, did. There’s room for cutting to the second reference — ISIS — in that case.
There’s something else about that second ATC report that’s worth noting. Jackie Northam smoothly set up listeners for the “ISIL” reference they were about to hear:
“State Department spokesperson Marie Harff says there’s more than just the military component to battling ISIL, the alternative acronym for the militant group.”
As always, we’re open to discussing reasons to adjust our guidance.
(Memmos; Sept. 12, 2014)