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The Curious Listener: An UPDATE Of Presidential Proportion

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Katie Burk/NPR

Our inaugural Curious Listener post focused on NPR broadcast style for talking about the President of the United States on first, second and subsequent references. As the next term begins, however, we're practicing some new policies when it comes to talking about the country's Chief Executive.

For decades, listeners have heard our reporters and hosts say "the President," "President (last name)," and "Mister (last name)" on air. Now NPR News is dropping the "Mister" requirement from our stylebook.

Find out why in the first-ever Curious Listener UPDATE, a conversation between NPR Listener Services and one listener:

Letter to NPR:

I believe it to be more proper when refering to official actions of the president that you identify him as "President Obama" not "Mr. Obama" as you sometimes do. He has earned and deserves the respect the title confers.


Glendora, CA

Dear Richard,

Thank you for contacting NPR.

We appreciate your thoughts regarding NPR protocol in referencing the President of the United States.

After careful consideration, we have decided that it will no longer be our style rule for reporters to use the title "Mr." for all second or later references for the President in a report. It will remain appropriate for reporters to use "the President" or to simply refer to the President by last name for subsequent references within a single report. Reporters or hosts may still occasionally use the "Mr. (last name)" form when referring to the President, however it will no longer be a part of our style guidelines and that honorific will not be specifically reserved for the President.

For decades, it was the broadcast practice of NPR to refer to the President by title on first reference, then as "Mr. (last name)" or "the President" for subsequent references within the same report. Although the title "Mr." was intended as a gesture of respect, we received feedback over the years from listeners who were not aware of NPR's longstanding policy and felt that the usage failed to properly acknowledge the office. We have applied this style rule consistently throughout the years and through each Presidential term, however feedback from our listeners was among the things that we considered when arriving at the recent decision to change this policy.

We encourage you to view this column by the NPR Ombudsman for additional information about our policy:

We are grateful to you for taking the time to contact us with your concerns regarding this matter.

Thank you for listening, and for your continued support of public broadcasting. For the latest news and information, visit


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