Search Results for: "Islamic State"
What did Mark annoy us about in 2015? Here are the year’s “Memmos,” divided into categories:
ANONYMITY AND SOURCING
DACS AND OTHER STANDARD PROCEDURES
LANGUAGE TO USE AND LANGUAGE NOT TO USE
- No Change In The Way We Introduce The Islamic State (later revised; see next entry in this list)
MISTAKES: HOW TO HANDLE THEM AND HOW TO AVOID THEM
NAMES AND PRONUNCIATIONS
- Reminders On Two Names (Ofeibea Quist-Arcton & Leila Fadel)
THIS IS HOW TO DO IT!
WHAT DID WE SAY IN 2014?
(“Memmos;” Dec. 22, 2015)
An editor once told me that if I asked 12 economists what was likely to happen I would get 13 opinions.
That line came to mind in recent days as I talked to people across NPR News about whether we do or do not allow music to be embedded in longer news stories. I’m talking about incidental music that is there, at the very least, to improve the listening experience, but otherwise has no obvious connection to the story. I’m also talking about longer pieces that are broadcast, not podcasts.
– “No …” I was told. NPR has a rule: No music; no sound effects. We don’t put anything in our broadcast pieces that isn’t “true” to the stories.
– “Sure …” I was assured. We’ve been adding music for years when it’s felt that “scoring” would improve a piece.
– “Well …” others said. Music can be used as a bookend or to create a bridge between sections of a long report. But it should never be layered beneath reporting.
– “But …” began some. If it’s obvious to listeners that the music is being used in a feature in a humorous way or in a long news story to set off a particular section, it’s OK to run it beneath the script.
– “Only …” said some. Music may be OK in features, but only rarely and with a “less is more” approach. That is, be sparing. We’re making news stories, not movies.
There was agreement on one thing. Music can’t be used in news stories to make editorial statements or to steer a listener toward judgments or conclusions. We don’t do those things – just as we would not tell the audience how to feel about the news we’re reporting.
But, but, but … what is an editorial statement and when is something manipulative? We can’t agree. There’s a “know it when we see it” sense.
After all that, here’s where are:
– There is no rule against putting music into broadcast pieces. It’s been done and is being done every week in features or special projects. Listen to WESUN’s “For The Record” series, a recent “Hidden Brain” piece that was recast for radio, Morning Edition’s report on “How The Libyan Revolution Opened The Door To The Islamic State” and the “Changing Lives of Women” essay from the “gray-haired granny” who has gone “punk rock.” Judge for yourself whether the music worked.
– Even those who advocate for the use of music say that “because it sounds cool” is not a reason to use it. Don’t do this either: Add music in the hope it will make a bad story better. There’s a problem with the story. Fix it or kill it.
– There’s agreement that music must be treated like any other piece of our journalism. An informed, editorially based decision is crucial. Be prepared to answer this question: “What’s that doing there?”
– We’re also in agreement that incidental music should not be layered beneath straight-forward, standard news stories.
– “Less is more” is a very important concept. Yes, there’s a case to be made that we need to keep up with the times and that some popular podcasts (including NPR’s) use music very effectively. But, we care deeply about principles such as honesty, transparency and fairness. Adding music can quickly raise questions in listeners’ minds about whether we’re staying true to our principles. A decade ago in Jonathan Kern’s Sound Reporting, Jay Kernis said that music could be added to “certain feature stories and mini-documentaries — on rare occasions.” The occasions are probably less rare these days, but we’re still thinking that they should be carefully considered.
This isn’t a “thou must” or “must not” note, as you can see. We have to take these thoughts and apply them as cases come up. That means talking to each other. Executive producers and desk heads need to be in on decisions about whether music should or shouldn’t be used in broadcast pieces. They should bring in the DMEs (Chuck Holmes and Gerry Holmes) or standards & practices editor (Mark Memmott) if outside opinions are needed. In coming months, watch for training opportunities about the use of music.
(“Memmos;” Nov. 30, 2015)
Enough time has gone by and so many stories have been reported that it’s been decided we no longer need to always use words such as “self-declared,” “self-proclaimed” or “self-styled” with first references to the “Islamic State.”
Also, we believe the audience is familiar enough with that group to allow us to say “ISIS” on first reference.
Please note that we are not issuing a rule that it must be “ISIS” on first reference. Also, “self-declared Islamic State” (or some variation) on first reference is not being banned. The change being made is that we’re no longer saying the first reference has to be done a certain way.
It will still make sense in many cases to remind listeners and readers that ISIS is “the group known as the Islamic State” or some other formulation that spells out exactly what and who we’re referring to. Also, we’ll still have to deal with officials and guests who want to call it “ISIL” or “Daesh,” which will require us to throw in an “also known as.”
This note mostly supersedes our previous guidance. There’s a “mostly” in that sentence because the guidance about not using “so-called” remains in effect.
(“Memmos;” Aug. 19, 2015)
“So-called” is a useful combination of two words. Properly used, so-called signals to listeners that the word or phrase that follows is becoming (or has become) popular or common, but is not official.
But when you’re about to say or write it, please keep some things in mind:
– Webster’s first definition of so-called is “popularly known or called by this term.”
– The second definition is “inaccurately or questionably designated as such.”
– That second definition is important. Depending on the context and tone, so-called may give the impression that we have formed a judgment about the term or words that follow. As Fowler’s Modern English Usage puts it, “so-called is traditionally used before a name or description to signal doubt about relevance or entitlement, as in ‘this so-called work of art.’ ” Cambridge Dictionaries says so-called shows “you think a word that is used to describe someone or something is not suitable or not correct.”
– Alternatives may sound more neutral. “Known as,” is one possible substitute. “Called the” is another. There are cases where a “supporters/opponents call it the …” may be appropriate.
– Alternatives may give the audience more information. That’s why “self-declared Islamic State” is better than “so-called Islamic State.”
– Alternatives will also help us with a repetition situation. We say “so-called” on the air about twice a day on average; and that’s not counting Newscasts.
– So-called should not be used before the actual name of something or a name that has moved into the history books. It’s not the “so-called Gettysburg Address,” for instance.
– Online, the word or term that follows so-called should not be put in quotes. Subsequent references also should not be put in quotes.
(Memmos; Feb. 26, 2015)
The question comes up about once a week: “Should we say ‘Islamic’ or ‘Islamist’ when referring to fighters from such groups as Boko Haram and the self-proclaimed Islamic State?”
NPR uses “Islamist.” The dictionary is our guide.
“Islamist” is a noun meaning “an advocate or supporter of Islamism” — which in turn is defined as “a movement advocating the social and political establishment of Islamic fundamentalism.”
Compound nouns such as “Islamist fighters” or “Islamist militants” describe who we are reporting about because they make the connection to the fundamentalist movement.
“Islamic” is too general. It’s just the adjective formed from the noun “Islam.”
Note: The Associated Press disagrees with us on this.
(Memmos; Feb. 18, 2015)
(Note on Aug. 19, 2015: This guidance has been mostly superseded. Go here to see our new guidance.)
Five months after we issued guidance on how to refer to the group known as the Islamic State, is it time to do away with the rule that listeners and readers be reminded that it is “self-declared,” “self-proclaimed,” “self-styled” or “known as?”
The consensus from the foreign desk editors is that it is not time to do that.
The reasoning remains the same:
– The words help distinguish the Islamic State from nations, such as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
– Not adding the words implies that the organization is a “state,” when in fact it is not an “independent government … within defined borders.” Those are key parts of the word’s definition.
There is one tweak to the guidance. “So-called” is not one of the phrases we should rely on. It doesn’t convey as much information as “self-declared” or “self-proclaimed,” which make clear to listeners and readers where the name came from.
Related note: “ISIS” remains our style on second reference. If someone we speak with uses ISIL or Daesh, we can again remind the audience that the group is also known by those names. Also, if a show has already introduced the Islamic State in one segment, there’s probably no need to go through the “self-proclaimed/self-declared/etc.” steps again in a subsequent segment.
(Memmos; Feb. 12, 2015)
What did Mark annoy us about in 2014? Here are the year’s “Memmos” divided into categories:
ATTENDING RALLIES AND POLITICKING
– “Why do we get some things wrong?” Our most common errors.
LABELS AND WHY IT’S WISE TO AVOID THEM
– “Victims” vs. “survivors.” (Particularly in cases of sexual assault.)
LANGUAGE TO USE AND LANGUAGE NOT TO USE
– Ebola; infectious or contagious?
– “Immigration” (and related terms).
– ISIS and al-Qaida; how to refer to their links.
– “Victims” vs. “survivors.” (Particularly in cases of sexual assault.)
STYLE & STANDARDS
‘TAKING DOWN’ STORIES
THINGS THAT SHOULD NOT BE FORGOTTEN
– Get names (why we don’t put random voices on the air).
– Good grammar.
– Never assume.
WHERE TO FIND GUIDANCE
(Memmos; Dec. 29, 2014)
When stories that were hot a few weeks or months ago pop back onto our agenda, one question always comes up.
It begins like this: “What’s our policy on …?”
– “Do we still …?”
– “Didn’t you say something about …?”
– “Do I have to …?”
It’s good to ask if you’re not sure. Either Gerry, Chuck or I are usually available. But remember, you also may be able to find the latest guidance right from your own desk. Not every question can be answered by consulting our online resources, but many can. Here’s where to go:
– Wiki. If you’re inside the firewall, our Wiki has style guides that cover a lot of territory — from the language we use when reporting about abortion to the words that make up the acronym ZIP. There are links there to AP’s Style Book as well. It’s a good resource on topics that our guides don’t cover. If you’re inside the firewall, click here to go to the Wiki.
Note: We’re working on moving the style guides to public pages. Member stations have been asking for that.
– Ethics Handbook. You don’t need to be inside the firewall to get to our Ethics Handbook. It’s the go-to place for guidance on our values and for some case studies and it’s public. Click here to go to ethics.npr.org.
– Memmos. These notes are also public. Click here to go to them. Here’s a tip: Use the “find” box in the upper right hand corner to search them.
For instance, if you vaguely remember that there was a memmo about when NOT to use the word “teenager,” search on that word. The result? “Something To Think About: Was Michael Brown A ‘Teenager?’ Yes, But …”
Or maybe you’re trying to remember how we refer to the group that’s trying to take over much of Iraq and Syria. Search “ISIS” and you’ll be led to several posts, including: “Islamic State? ISIS? ISIL? Here’s Another Reminder About NPR’s Guidance.”
Not sure if you need to get a consent form signed by a minor’s parents? Search on “consent form” and you’re taken to: “Here’s Where To Find The Latest Version Of Our ‘Minor Consent Form.’ ” The post has guidance and a link to where we’ve posted a printable form.
Wondering how many times the memmos have referred to Korva? A search shows this is the third one to do that.
Speaking of Korva, right behind the work station she uses on the Newscast desk is a white wall. If you’re the old-fashioned sort who likes it when newsrooms put spellings, key facts and other important matters up on a board for all to see, swing by. Your question may be answered right there.
(Memmos; Nov. 19, 2014)
Do a search and you’ll see that we’ve recently talked or written about:
– “A wave of” foreigners joining the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
– “A wave of” new voter ID laws.
– “A wave of” protests across the nation following the death of Michael Brown.
Those examples are from the last few weeks. In the past year, according to the Library, we’ve ridden the “wave” phrase at least 71 times on the air. To be sure, there have been many times we’ve talked about “a wave of” your smartphone or “a wave of” water. But there have also been waves of attacks, of violence and of refugees, to cite a few. A search of the phrase “a wave of” on NPR.org, which brings in blog posts , other Web text and guests’ language, produces 154 results from the past year.
A crusty editor who hates clichés once told me that they do occasionally have their place if there’s just no better word or phrase to use. But as Oxford Dictionaries warns, clichés “tend to annoy people, especially if they’re overused.”
Chip Scanlan, then with Poynter, is among many who have wryly observed it’s wise to “avoid clichés like the plague.”
Former Detroit Free Press development editor Joe Grimm has suggested they be used sparingly and only “when they fit the story precisely.”
What should you do if you feel a wave (or some other cliché) coming on? First, stop and ask if it’s really a phrase that applies to the situation. Then, as with our guidance about avoiding labels, consider substituting a fact. How many foreigners have joined ISIS? How many refugees have crossed the border? How many bombings have there been?
Now that I’ve opened this can of worms, I’ll stop fanning the flames, give it a rest and call it a day.
(Memmos; Oct. 22, 2014)
President Obama calls it a “campaign against extremism.”
NPR, though, does use the word “war” when reporting about the U.S.-led military strikes aimed at the self-proclaimed Islamic State. We’re not alone, as you’ll see in reports from The Associated Press and other news outlets.
The definition of the word guides us: “war — 1. open armed conflict between countries or between factions within the same country; 2. any active hostility, contention, or struggle …” (Webster’s)
Military forces from the U.S. and other nations are now part of an “open armed conflict” between factions within Iraq and Syria, and there is clearly “active hostility” in those countries. The situation differs from what’s happened in other nations where the U.S. has aimed strikes at organizations said to be training terrorists.
Here’s an example of how we’ve used the word, from an introduction heard during All Things Considered:
“We’ve been reporting, today, on the series of airstrikes the U.S. and Arab countries conducted overnight in Syria. After weeks of attacks on the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, in Iraq, these are the first U.S. air attacks on the group in Syria. And it marks a major expansion of the U.S. led war on ISIS.”
The words “on ISIS” are important. They distinguish the current campaign from the earlier war in Iraq. If the al-Qaida offshoot called the Korasan Group is targeted again, that could make it advisable to say “war on militant Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq” or some variation of that phrasing. But at least for now, most reports will likely focus on ISIS.
Obviously, war isn’t the only word that applies. Other words and phrases can be used: attacks, campaign, military campaign, air strikes, bombing runs, military conflict and so on.
It’s also clear, as Greg Myre explores on the Parallels blog, that there are good reasons to add context:
“With the airstrikes in Syria, the U.S. has now bombed seven Muslim countries since the 9/11 attacks and the lines between a full-fledged war and counterterrorism have been blurred. The current efforts contains elements of both as a broad, open-ended military campaign that also targets a specific terrorist group.”
(Memmos; Sept. 24, 2014)
(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)
Several listeners and readers have told us it’s wrong to say that James Foley was “executed” or to use the word “execution” when reporting about his death.
They have a point.
According to Webster’s, someone is executed if they are “put to death as in accordance with a legally imposed sentence.” An execution is the putting to death of someone “in accordance with a legally imposed sentence.”
The AP advises that “to execute a person is to kill him in compliance with a military order or judicial decision.”
Saying Foley was executed, by definition, would mean his death was “in compliance” or “in accordance” with orders from a recognized court, government or military. Saying Foley was executed would imply that the Islamic State (or ISIS) is an entity that can legally carry out such sentences.
In this case, it’s better to say Foley was “killed” or “beheaded” or “murdered” (“the unlawful and malicious or premeditated killing of one human being by another”).
Note I: Yes, the AP seems not to have followed its own guidance on this issue. And yes, “murdered” is a powerful word that should be used judiciously. In this case, though, the video evidence supports use of the word.
Note II: Another word to think about when discussing the Foley case is “captured.” When an Israeli soldier was missing recently, we discussed why it was wrong to say he had been “kidnapped” (a word that applies to civilians and to crimes) and was better to say he had been “captured” (a word that applies to combatants on a battlefield). In Foley’s case, the opposite is true. He was not a combatant. It’s not a major problem to say Foley was “captured,” but it’s better to say something like he was “taken hostage” or “kidnapped.”
(Memmos; Aug. 22, 2014)