Monday, August 11, 2014

New York Times Abandons Courtesy Titles; We'll Miss You Mr. Honorifics

NEW YORK — (TYDN) The New York Times is updating its style guide and will no longer use honorifics—the courtesy titles such as Mr. or Ms. before a person's last name, TheYellowDailyNews has learned.

The move to drop honorifics, after more than a century in use, was announced Monday in a staff e-mail obtained by TheYellowDailyNews from publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.

Photo: Ahmed Hashim/TYDN
In an exclusive interview with TheYellowDailyNews, Sulzberger said that courtesy titles simply don't make sense any more, and he's not sure if they ever did.

"I mean, we're having fights in the newsroom about whether Osama bin Laden should be called Mr. Bin Laden on second reference," he said. "Or whether to put Ms. or Mrs. on second reference before a woman's last name. Jesus, I don't even remember why we're doing this. Does anybody?  The Nazi style strict constructionists are gonna have a field day."

Sulzberger said he began mulling the changeover more than a year ago when WikiLeaks leaker Pvt. Bradley Manning said he wanted to be known as Chelsea Manning and live as a woman after being diagnosed with gender dysphoria. What's more, Sulzberger added that, as more states allow gay marriage, words such as "husband and wife" no longer are gender specific.

"I had this epiphany, that society has moved beyond gender norms, and so should The New York Times," Sulzberger said.

The new policy also drops the "he said" or "she said" attribution and instead requires just the last name of the speaker—such as "Jones said," according to Sulzberger's e-mail.

Reaction to the style change was mixed among staffers of The New York Times.

Some welcomed it and said the new policy showed that the stodgy newspaper of record's style guide was keeping up with the world it was covering.

Other staffers, however, objected, saying Sulzberger had taken the idea too far when  announcing unisex bathrooms would be the norm at the paper's offices and newsrooms.

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