Accuracy in Media

NPR brass reacted negatively after veteran reporter Nina Totenberg consistently referred to White House Chief of Staff as Rahm Emanuel by his first name only.

From the Politico

After one of its reporters repeatedly referred to Rahm Emanuel simply as “Rahm” in an on-air segment last week, NPR executives have decided such familiar references by reporters will be verboten in the future.

Henceforth, the White House Chief of Staff will be known only as “Rahm Emanuel.” The customary second reference using only the person’s last name is being set aside in this case because Rahm is rarely referred to as “Emanuel” in Washington circles.

“No one, absolutely no one, refers to Rahm Emanuel as Emanuel, or Mr. Emanuel, or Chief of Staff Emanuel. Therefore our style for him will have to be Rahm Emanuel, both names on first reference and second reference,” NPR Washington editor Ron Elving told the network’s ombudsman, Alicia Shepard last week.

Shepard said she disagreed with the special second reference for Emanuel and thinks he should simply be called by his last name on second mention, like most others referred to on NPR.


This was no rookie mistake by Totenberg and NPR reacted quickly to make it clear that all reporters need to use both the first and last name of their subjects.  Even though the report wasn’t favorable towards Emanuel in this case it still calls into question why Totenberg felt comfortable enough to refer to him by his first name only.  While NPR says that Totenberg and Emanuel are not social friends by using only his first name it made it appear they were or maybe it was just some sort of hidden desire on her part.

So much for reporter objectivity and credibility at NPR.


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