Mark Memmott

If you need to refer to the proposed citizenship question for the 2020 census, contact Hansi Lo Wang or Luis Clemens before doing so. One of them should review what you plan to say or write because the history of such questions is complicated.

They will tell you, for example, that:

As Newscast and Colorado Public Radio have reported, the 16-year-old suspect in the STEM school shooting is being charged as an adult – as is the 18-year-old suspect.

As we've covered the new abortion law in Georgia and legislation in Alabama, we've followed long-standing guidance very well. Thank you to all involved.

For those new to the subject, that guidance about abortion and related topics is collected in our Intranet "radio" style guide. We'll attach it below.

As we report on measles outbreaks and outbreaks related to other vaccine-preventable diseases, it's important to stick to the science — and to use neutral language in describing peoples' positions.

There is evidence in the Mueller report that the president asked some aides to lie about his actions.

When reporting about this, frame it as "evidence," not proof, that the aides were "asked to lie." And attribute the evidence to Mueller's investigation.

We are not going to repeat on the air this quote attributed to President Trump in the Mueller report:

"I'm fucked."

When talking about it, we can clean up the quote by turning it into "I'm F-ed." But we will also need to make clear to listeners that he used the actual word.

Meanwhile, less is more. "I'm F-ed" and discussions of that quote do not need to be part of all our Mueller-related reports.

Note: online we write "I'm f***ed."

Like an Election Day, this is another time to remind everyone about the social media rules of the road when there's a big story about to break.

Borrowing from our post from last November, here is guidance on how to (and not to) respond to news regarding the redacted Mueller report:

-- 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 ...

As Thursday's release of a redacted version of the special counsel's report draws near and as we report about it afterward, there's a phrase we do not need to say, write or put in headlines:

"It's Mueller Time."

Others have used that supposedly funny twist on an old ad slogan many times. It's played out. We've avoided it and should continue to do so.

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:

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):

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.

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.

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.


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."

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.

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 a headline and at least one on-air reference we have said that Christine Blasey Ford accuses Brett Kavanaugh of "attempted sexual assault."

The word "attempted" does not belong there. What she alleges happened would be a sexual assault, not an attempt at one.

Where "attempted" could fit is in references to something Ford's attorney has said — that her client believes it was an "attempted rape."

Columbo* was known for saying "just one more thing."

We seem to have adopted "before I let you go" as a go-to way of asking one last question.

A tip from a "Memmo" reader led to a search today of NPR archives. The phrase "before I let you go" produced 820 results; 90 were heard in just the past year.

Broken down by show, All Things Considered is far ahead: 284 results. Morning Edition had only promised freedom 107 times.

As we report about the "Unite the Right" rally planned for this weekend near the White House, keep in mind that the labels many groups create for themselves and those that the media put on them rarely fit well and should be avoided or put in context.

There have been a few occasions recently where some listeners thought it sounded like we were using the phrase "catch and release" as if it's a neutral description of what happens to some people who have entered the country illegally.

But any phrase that compares something done to human beings to something done to animals is not neutral. It is phrasing meant to frame the debate.

How much, if any, of the shocking sights and sounds should newsrooms report when two people are murdered on live television and the video whips around the world on the Web?

Alison Parker and Adam Ward, two local TV journalists, were gunned down while on the air Wednesday. They were near Roanoke, Va., interviewing local Chamber of Commerce official Vicki Gardner about tourism. Gardner was seriously injured.

Editor's note: The headline on this post tips our hand. But just to be clear, we're discussing language that some readers don't want to hear or read, even when it's bleeped or not spelled out.

This question came up in the newsroom: Should an NPR journalist say during a podcast that someone's an a****** if many people would agree that person is an a******?

The question wasn't about a real person. It was about someone who would bet against his favorite team or would bet that his lover would say "no" to a marriage proposal.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

It's Independence Day. Let's take a break from parades, patriotic songs and pyrotechnics to think about the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

As NPR and other news outlets report about the hundreds of people killed this month when the ship they were on went down off the Libyan coast, the stories are referring to those who died as "migrants."

As NPR reports about the crash of a Germanwings passenger jet and the deaths of all 150 people on board, one of the words editors are weighing carefully is "suicide."

Investigators have said they believe co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew the plane into a mountain in the French Alps.