October 3, 2013

Maynard Institute | Associated Press
NPR standards editor Stuart Seidel asked reporters and editors to “avoid overusing ‘Obamacare'” after the Maynard Institute’s Richard Prince wrote him saying “the term can no longer be defended as neutral.”

Seidel’s memo, Prince writes, says:

“‘Obamacare’ seems to be straddling somewhere between being a politically-charged term and an accepted part of the vernacular. And it seems to be on our air and in our copy a great deal. (I haven’t counted, and I’m not going to count: numbers don’t add up to good journalism.) But word choices do leave an impression. Please avoid overusing ‘Obamacare.’ On first reference, it’s best to refer to the ‘Affordable Care Act’ or ‘the health care law.’ On later references, feel free to use ‘Obamacare’ but mix it up with other ways to refer to the law.”

Other news organizations told Prince they use the term. The New York Times uses it and “Affordable Care Act” interchangeably; “PBS NewsHour” uses it on second reference.

AP’s Deputy Managing Editor and Standards Editor Tom Kent writes in a blog post that the news co-op prefers its reporters use “the nation’s new health care law” since the Affordable Care Act’s “very name is promotional.”

Last year, Chris Cillizza wrote that the Obama administration’s sort-of embrace of the nickname “Obamacare was a “bow to political reality” after the term became the way most people searched for information about it on Google.

None of which explains why some news organizations — looking at you, Fox News — sometimes cap the “C” in the term, rendering it “ObamaCare.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Joe Knowles tells Prince he advised staffers to “note the lowercase ‘c.'”

Related: How reporters can localize coverage of the Affordable Care Act | 5 myths about the Affordable Health Care Act

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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