In an unusual move, the Associated Press has publicly released an advisory memo to its reporters on how to cover of the Ground Zero mosque story – and the first rule is that journalists must immediately stop calling it the “Ground Zero mosque” story.
“We should continue to avoid the phrase 'Ground zero mosque' or 'mosque at ground zero' on all platforms,” reads the advisory, which was issued by the AP's
Instead of the “Ground Zero mosque,” AP recommends that reporters use the terms “mosque 2 blocks from WTC site,” “Muslim (or Islamic) center near WTC site,” “mosque near ground zero,” or “mosque near WTC site.”
The AP suggests that it might “useful in some stories to note that Muslim prayer services have been held since 2009 in the building that the new project will replace.” In addition, the news service offers a “succinct summary of President Obama's position” on the mosque, but doesn't include the positions of any other politicians.
Also included in the advisory is a “Fact Check” to provide “additional background” for reporters.
“A New York imam and his proposed mosque near ground zero are being demonized by political candidates — mostly Republicans — despite the fact that Islam is already very much a part of the World Trade Center neighborhood,” reads the first paragraph of the Fact Check. “And that Muslims pray inside the Pentagon, too, less than 80 feet from where terrorists attacked. And that the imam who's being branded an extremist has been valued by both Republican and Democratic administrations as a moderate face of the faith.”
One of the “facts” that the AP feels the need to “clarify” is that Ground Zero mosque organizer Feisal Abdul Rauf is a moderate Muslim.
“Rauf counts former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright from the Clinton administration as a friend and appeared at events overseas or meetings in Washington with former President George W. Bush's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and Bush adviser Karen Hughes,” says the article, though it does also mention briefly Rauf's comments about America being an “accessory” to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The advisory also “fact checks” pure opinion statements made by conservatives like former House Speaker Newt Gringrich's assertion that “
“Such opinions are shared by some Americans, while others are more reluctant to paint the religion with a broad brush and more welcoming of the faith in this country,” reads the Fact Check. “Bush, himself, while criticized at the time for stirring suspicions about American Muslims, traveled to a Washington mosque less than a week after the attacks to declare that terrorism is 'not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.'”
AP is arguable the most influential news organization in the country, and many media outlets adhere to its guidelines in their reporting.