On Not Talking Over 'Taps' And Other Sensitive Sounds : Memmos Standards & Practices Editor Mark Memmott writes occasional notes about the issues journalists encounter and the way NPR handles them. They often expand on topics covered in the Ethics Handbook.
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On Not Talking Over 'Taps' And Other Sensitive Sounds

Everyone's thoughts would be appreciated on this:

Over the weekend a piece on WESAT had, in the show's first feed, a brief bit of "Taps" playing underneath while the NPR correspondent described the scene in Normandy.

A producer thought there might be a problem, and our "Style, Grammar & Usage" Wiki confirmed there was:

"TAPS music: Do not talk over 'Taps.' If you use the beginning bars, please fade down and out. You may start speaking on the fade but do not allow it to stay under you as you read your lines. If you use the final bars of taps, please be sure to end speaking before you bring them up. Do not use as a bed under your read. (Dave Pignanelli, 11/11/11)"

We devote a section of our Ethics Handbook to "Respect." The guidance on "Taps," which came after listener input, is in line with our concern about showing proper respect. Military personnel know that when "Taps" is played, they are to "render a salute from the beginning until the conclusion of the song. Civilians should place their right hand over their heart during this time." Silence is expected.

The question is, are their other types of occasions or ceremonies that might lead us to refrain from talking over the sound?

– The reading of names on 9/11? We have talked over them.

– The choir at a service for victims of the Boston bombings? We've talked over them too.

I'm not suggesting we need a list or some sort of rule. But as I said at the top, thoughts would be welcome.