Mark Memmott

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 June, we put a spotlight on the number of mistakes we make and set a goal to cut them in half by October.

We haven't gotten worse.

But the pace – 100 or so corrections per month – hasn't slowed. The types of mistakes we most often make haven't changed. They include:

  • Misspelled names.
  • Mistaken locations.
  • Messed up titles.
  • Miscalculated numbers.
  • Mangled histories.

Our coverage yesterday (and days before and surely in days to come) of the news surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination has been excellent. Thank you.

No one here wants to do anything that would raise questions about NPR's work – which brings us back to a topic we've addressed before.

Social media.

From our Ethics Handbook [bold added for emphasis]:

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."

When anyone – including publishers, sources or other media outlets — asks to rebroadcast, reprint or post something we've produced, the request must go through our "permissions" department for legal vetting. This rule also applies if you're writing a book and want to include work you've previously done for NPR.

The process and a link to NPR's online permissions form are posted here. There's an email address as well: permissions@npr.org.

The letter containing her allegation about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh did not come from an anonymous person. She signed it. So we should not refer to it as an "anonymous letter" or to her account as an "anonymous allegation." Instead, as we have done most times, we should describe the circumstances. She contacted her local member of Congress and then Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and asked that they keep her name confidential.

When interviewing officials who have left the White House about their time with the Trump administration or current issues involving the administration, it is important that we ask whether they signed non-disclosure agreements covering their work and what they can say about the president.

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.

Quite a few folks have joined NPR or switched roles since we wrote in 2015 that there are "No Exceptions: Clips With Offensive Language Must Be Vetted." They aren't the only staffers who should know what follows, of course.

Here are the key points [with a few tweaks] from that post:

The Two-Way previously explained the difference between "lying in state," "lying in repose" and "lying in honor."

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.

The number of misspelled names that have made their way into digital stories has edged down in the past couple weeks and we're catching more of them in scripts and other places before publication. Thank you.

But the evidence indicates we have a bad habit. It looks like we're not always double-checking the spelling of some familiar folks' names. We must be trusting our memories.

Some examples from recent months follow. We have:

I've bored many with the story that one of the first things an editor told me was that I should delete words that end with "ly" from my stories.

But it actually works. Stories really do read and sound better. By eliminating those "throwaway intensifiers" you literally open up space for action words that definitely move a story along.

The woman charged with being an unregistered Russian agent has been referred to in headlines and story summaries by us and others as a "student" or "graduate student."

While it has been reported that she entered the U.S. on a student visa, simply referring to her that way in headlines and introductions could mislead those who don't read or listen to the rest of a story. It makes it sound like her reason for coming to the U.S. was to get an education. That's a conclusion we shouldn't jump to.

As we continue to report about the president and his view of what the U.S. intelligence community has concluded regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election, we need to be careful about references to the 2017 analysis issued by the Director of National Intelligence.

While the DNI does speak on behalf of 17 intelligence agencies, the work that led to the assessment about Russian interference came from three of the 17 — the CIA, FBI and NSA.

Five weeks of data show our corrections pace has not slowed. We're still on a 100-a-month pace.

The basic message today is a repeat: "We must start CQ'ing." Reread that "Memmo" for more about how to do that.

Now that everyone is clued in about CQ'ing, we want to talk about a simple step toward accuracy that some have been taking for years, but others aren't.

Copy and paste.

We're not suggesting anyone lift lines or phrases from others' reporting. That's plagiarism.

What we're talking about is an efficient way to get some things right the first time.

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.

Debunking falsehoods has long been among our standard practices. As we've said:

When There's No Evidence To Support A Claim, We Should Say That

You've hopefully heard about the meetings we've been having regarding the mistakes we've been making. If you haven't been to one of the discussions yet, watch for an invitation.

As has been said many times at the sessions so far, it's important upfront to acknowledge that we're doing more good work — but without more good people. Almost everyone is stretched. Thanks are in order for all that you do.

But, then there's this: We've posted about 100 corrections a month this year.

Adding to our earlier guidance, here's a helpful link courtesy of Nell Greenfieldboyce.

Tips from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

https://chapterland.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2018/06/13763_TopTenNotes_Reporting_on_Suicide_Flyer_m1.pdf

Listening and reading from home the past few days, it was good to hear and see that we've treated mentions of "Spygate" as they should be — sparingly, in quotes and with attribution. We've made clear that it's a label being used by one side to try to frame a debate.

There are, of course, other reasons to resist simply starting to call something a "gate."

First, it's a cliché. We fight clichés like there's no tomorrow.

It sounds simple: When you put an interpreter's voice over the sound of a non-English speaker, "you never want the translation to be at odds with the original actuality," Jonathan Kern writes in Sound Reporting.

In practice, we sometimes slip. Either we don't start the clip at quite the right place or the interpretation isn't as true to what's been said as it should be.

People who speak the language will notice if things aren't lining up correctly. Then they'll question the accuracy of the rest of a story.

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."

Eight months after a notorious group of fighters in Iraq and Syria became regular characters in the news, NPR still begins most of its reports with words such as these:

-- "Self-declared Islamic State."

-- "Self-proclaimed Islamic State."

-- "The group that calls itself the Islamic State."

You're ready to check out at the supermarket. There are only eight items in your cart, so you look for the express lane.

The sign above says "10 items or less."

Do you:

-- Head for the register without a second thought?

-- Rue the decline of the English language because you were taught that the sign should say "10 items or fewer?"

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