Mark Memmott

There's an important footnote with U.S. Customs and Border Protection's data. It states that:

"Apprehensions refers to the physical control or temporary detainment of a person who is not lawfully in the U.S. which may or may not result in an arrest."

Be warned. It's April Fools' Day. We have to be on guard against those who would like us to believe their fake news. View things even more skeptically than usual.

Also, if you think you have a funny idea for an April Fools' story, you're too late. If we do one, we only do one, and if it exists it's already been approved. Sorry, Korva.

The following was first posted on Oct. 30, 2018:

As we've said before, we should not use gun- or violence-related clichés in our reports — no matter the subject and especially not when another mass shooting is in the news.

Earlier this year, we posted a short list of such phrases:

Our dictionary defines the word "manifesto" as "a public declaration of motives and intentions, as by a political party or by an avant-garde movement." The statement reportedly made by the suspect in New Zealand did not come from a political party and it seems euphemistic to refer to him as being part of an avant-garde movement. The word "manifesto" also may elevate such a statement, in the eyes of those who might want to copy this person's actions, to something more than it might really have been.

Thank you, everyone, for your work on covering the mass shooting in New Zealand.

As we continue to cover the news:

With former Rep. Beto O'Rourke entering the presidential race this is a good time to remind everyone about our policy on subsequent references to people in our news reports.

He, for example, is "O'Rourke" — not "Beto" — in later references. Just as Sen. Bernie Sanders is "Sanders," not "Bernie." And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is "Ocasio-Cortez," not "AOC."

Coming off the recent Buzzfeed report about what President Trump supposedly told Michael Cohen to do, we're underscoring how we handle such stories and who directs our coverage.

When another media outlet has what looks to be an important scoop based on an unnamed source or sources:

- The deputy managing editor who is on duty brings together the appropriate desk head(s), and one or more of the following: SVP of News (Nancy Barnes); VP for News (Sarah Gilbert); Executive Editor (Edith Chapin).

The questions to consider include:

Make sure your clocks spring forward an hour this weekend, and make sure you say or write that most of the U.S. is switching to "daylight saving time," not "daylight savingS."

If you do add that second "s," you will be robocalled at 2 a.m. Sunday and at other annoying hours until April 1. Fair warning: The message that Korva has recorded is not in her usual "everything's cool" tone of voice.

Also remember this (from the National Institute of Standards and Technology):

We wrote this week that a radar technician in Alaska is "unphased by the solitude and pace of work" at the sites he visits.

A reader reminds us that the correct word is "unfazed."

As for Spock, one might say he was "unphased" when a Klingon took his weapon. But when writing about how Spock reacted to being disarmed, the word is "unfazed."

In the statement he's expected to deliver this morning, Michael Cohen twice uses the word "shithole." It is possible that word, and others that are offensive, will also come up during the question-and-answer portion of his testimony.

For at least 80 years, some Republicans have referred to their major opponents as members of the "Democrat Party," not by its name — the "Democratic Party." It's a jab suggesting that the party is not democratic.

At NPR we "avoid loaded words preferred by a particular side in a debate."

We refer to the party by its name: the Democratic Party. Its elected officials are Democratic senators, governors, etc.

This is not new guidance.

We've gotten it wrong in the past, so with Venezuela and Colombia in the news here's a reminder.

Colombia – the country, that is – is not spelled with a "u." Save the "u" for when you're writing about the District of Columbia or the company that makes sportswear.

Make sure the country is spelled correctly in scripts, tweets, Facebook posts, Web stories and headlines. And don't forget DACS. Remember, your words might end up on car dashboards and the ticker that runs around this building.

If we report further about the investigation into alleged sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches, do not refer to those who attend the churches as "parishioners."

As The Associated Press says about the word, it describes a "member of a parish, an administrative district of various churches, particularly Roman Catholic and Anglican. Do not use for Judaism or non-hierarchal Protestant denominations."

Among the alternatives to describe those who attend the Baptist churches are "members," "congregants" and "worshipers."

Gerry Holmes' note this week about Parkland anniversary coverage included an important reminder that we want to reinforce.

Superlatives such as "first," "worst" and "deadliest" should be avoided or only used after careful consideration, rigorous fact-checking and in moderation.

One reason is simple. As we've said many times, we're bound to be wrong. Superlatives are among our most common sources of mistakes.

If you're going to refer to who's next in line should the governor of Virginia resign, and who would be next if there's no lieutenant governor, and who would be next if there's no attorney general, here's how to explain the "line of succession":

The lieutenant governor is "first" in the line of succession. The attorney general is "second" in the line of succession. The speaker of the House of Delegates (Republican Kirk Cox) is "third" in the line of succession.

There are surely many lessons to be relearned from the media's coverage of the video showing Kentucky high school students and a Native American singer/drummer at the Lincoln Memorial.

This one is very important:

We don't necessarily have to report about such videos until we have more to say than that they exist.

Keep in mind:

- One video may not tell a complete story.

- It's very likely we won't know how it was edited.

- We may know nothing about the motivations of the person who made the video.

With high-profile marches happening today and this weekend, here are links to our thinking about why we don't get involved and what is and isn't OK:

- We can go see what's happening, but can't "participate."

- Taking part could "raise questions about NPR's independence and impartiality."

As with previous notes about offensive language, what follows focuses on radio reports.

But it's worth noting that we also do not put f-bombs, s-bombs, slurs and other offensive language on digital platforms without senior editors' approval.

These are mandatary steps:

1. Reporter/editor/producer (from desks and shows): As soon as you think there's even a chance you may need to include such language in a radio piece, put an ALL CAPS message in the "Notes" field of your story's Newsflex collection.

It should say "THIS STORY CONTAINS OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE."

Remember checks? Those things you used to write when you were paying bills?

The start of a new year was always the time when you'd date one with the wrong year. Then you'd have to rip it up and start over.

The start of a new year is also the time when it's easy to make a mistake in a story by saying something happened "last year."

Yes, this is obvious — but please remember that 2017 is no longer "last year."

The word "divisive" has been coming up often lately, and we seem to be dih-VYD-id about how to say it.

Fortunately, someone in years past dih-VYZED a solution for us.

From our pronouncers database:

divisive — dih-VY-sihv

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

We will continue to work on reducing mistakes (and therefore the number of corrections we post) in 2019.

Meanwhile, here is Poynter's annual corrections roundup. We didn't make the list this time.

"The funny, the weird and the serious: 33 media corrections from 2018"


For those who have been with NPR on other Thanksgiving Days, this guidance should be familiar. But just in case:

You will be tempted to tweet, post to Facebook and otherwise express yourself on social media. There's probably a lot you'd like to say about that offensive joke Uncle Jim just told or the dessert that cousin Pat obviously bought and tried to pass off as homemade.

But please bear in mind that the coming days are as important as any to protecting NPR's reputation as a trusted news source.

There were several Web summaries posted over the weekend that flatly said Jamal Khashoggi was murdered. We should not be doing that in any stories, online or on air. NPR agrees with the AP that:

"Homicide is a legal term for slaying or killing.

"Murder is malicious, premeditated homicide. ...

"A homicide should not be described as murder unless a person has been convicted of that charge."

Mistakes involving names of people, places and things continue to make up the largest share of the corrections we post.

In October, 48 of the 92 corrections involved names that were wrong (for example, a Mike who is actually named Mark) or were misspelled.

So far in November, 14 of the 48 posted corrections have been about names. That's a lower ratio than in October, but it is still the top category among the mistakes we make.

For those who have been with NPR on other election days, most of this guidance should be familiar. As we've said before:

-- On Election Day and Night, you will be tempted to tweet, post to Facebook and otherwise express yourself on social media. There's probably a lot you'd like to say about the campaign and the candidates.

In recent weeks, there's been discussion in the newsroom about best practices when it comes to seeking comment from people or institutions that are in the news (for "good" and "bad" reasons).

What follows doesn't cover every potential situation. But when we know we need to ask for comment from someone or some organization, we must:

- Give them a reasonable amount of time to get back to us. What's reasonable? Discuss that with senior editors or DMEs.

As we've said before, we should not use gun- or violence-related clichés in our reports — no matter the subject and especially not when another mass shooting is in the news.

Earlier this year, we posted a short list of such phrases:

The definition of the word "enemy" begins this way: "A person who hates another, and wishes or tries to injure him."

We do not need to add to the loaded language of the day by referring to those on one side as the "political enemies" of those they oppose. Not only does that add to the heated rhetoric, it adopts a label that one side wants to put on the other — something we should not do.

Better words to use include "opponents" and "critics."

The list below is not a complete record of names we've misspelled in one way or another on more than one occasion. And it's not being shared because we're more worried about these names than about others.

In June, we put a spotlight on the number of mistakes we make and set a goal to cut them in half by October.

We haven't gotten worse.

But the pace – 100 or so corrections per month – hasn't slowed. The types of mistakes we most often make haven't changed. They include:

  • Misspelled names.
  • Mistaken locations.
  • Messed up titles.
  • Miscalculated numbers.
  • Mangled histories.

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