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AP reporters and editors may refer to this, variously, as "a mosque, two blocks from the World Trade Center site," or "Muslim (or Islamic) center near the World Trade Center site," or "mosque near Ground Zero," or "mosque near the World Trade Center site."
On many newsroom bookshelves, you're bound to find a copy of the AP Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, known as "The Journalist's Bible," which "provides fundamental guidelines on spelling, grammar, punctuation and usage, with special sections on social media, reporting business and sports."
Yesterday, as controversy surrounding the proposed construction of an Islamic center near Ground Zero, in Lower Manhattan, continued, AP Deputy Managing Editor for Standards and Production sent some guidance to AP staff:
We should continue to avoid the phrase "ground zero mosque" or "mosque at ground zero" on all platforms. (We've very rarely used this wording, except in slugs, though we sometimes see other news sources using the term.) The site of the proposed Islamic center and mosque is not at ground zero, but two blocks away in a busy commercial area. We should continue to say it's "near" ground zero, or two blocks away.
We can refer to the project as a mosque, or as a proposed Islamic center that includes a mosque.
You can read his memo, in full, here.
The move has upset Sarah Palin, apparently. On her Twitter page yesterday, she wrote this:
Pelosi's investigation of Harry Reid&Howard Dean&others who oppose Ground Zero Mosque will be enlightening,we're sure.(Note to AP: GZM term)
In his "Watching Washington" column, NPR Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving says that "the phrase sums up a controversy in terms so vivid and concise that neither journalists nor water cooler pundits can resist using the term."
Even if you put the words in quotation marks, on paper or in the air, the powerful combination works its magic.
Of course, the phrase is also inaccurate and misleading. But how much does that constrain us when a phrase is so catchy and touches such a resonant emotional cord?