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The “situational stylebook”: AP creates a reference guide for the upcoming Sept. 11 anniversary

It’s another step toward stylebook-as-evolving-document instead of stylebook-as-tome-on-a-desk.

This September will mark the ten-year anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. It’s an occasion that will be commemorated, both on the day itself and, in many cases, in the weeks leading up to it, with journalistic coverage of the events and their aftermath.

To assist its members as they create that coverage, the Associated Press just released a style and reference guide whose content is dedicated to 9/11. It includes terms like “airline, airlines” (“Capitalize airlines, air lines and airways when used as part of a proper airline name. American Airlines, United Airlines”); “ground zero” (lower-case), “acceptable term for the World Trade Center site”; and names like “Osama bin Laden” (“use bin Laden in all references except at the start of a sentence…. Pronounced oh-SAH’-muh bin LAH’-din”).

The guide is intriguing — not only as a useful tool for the many journalists who will be, in some way or another, writing about 9/11 over the next few weeks, but also as a hint at what a Stylebook can be when it’s thought of not just as a book, but as a resource more broadly. AP’s guide (official name: “Sept. 11 Style and Reference Guide”) is a kind of situational stylebook, an ad hoc amalgam of information that will be useful for a particular set of stories, within a particular span of time.

“I’m not aware of anything quite like this,” says David Minthorn, the AP’s deputy standards editor who oversees the cooperative’s Stylebook. The AP has distributed a list of terms for certain big, broadly covered events in the past — the Olympics, say; this is the first time, though, Minthorn told me in a phone call, that the AP has produced a reference guide quite this comprehensive that’s tied to a specific news event.

But the event, he says, called for it. “This is a momentous occasion, a momentous anniversary,” Minthorn notes. Because of that, “we want to, particularly for our own staff, make sure everybody is conforming to certain spellings and definitions.”

And that uniformity includes information, as well. One of the most intriguing aspects of the style guide is that it’s not just a style guide: It emphasizes the facts of 9/11 as much as the manner in which those facts are presented. “We wanted to make sure everybody uses the same information,” Minthorn says. So the guide includes, for example, a detailed timeline of the events as they played out on September 11, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:25 p.m. EDT. It also includes a list of victims, categorized according to the locations of their deaths. (“2,753 in New York. Includes three later deaths from respiratory disease that have since been linked to illnesses caused by the towers’ collapse. 40 in Pennsylvania. 184 at the Pentagon. Total: 2,977 as of July 25, 2011.”)

The guide, in other words, in addition to everything else, is itself striking as a memorial to 9/11. It is stark. It is cold. It is all the most relevant facts, all the most salient terms, combined on a single page without the comforting cushion of context. An example:

hijackers: The flights they hijacked, where the planes crashed, their full names, their names on second reference and their pronunciation. Note that in Arabic, stressed syllables don’t tend to be stressed hard.”

American Airlines Flight 11 (World Trade Center’s north tower): Mohamed Atta (Atta), moh-HAM’-ad AT’-ta; Wail Alshehri (Alshehri), WAH’-eyel ahl SHEH’-ree; Waleed M. Alshehri (Alshehri), WAH’-leed ahl SHEH’-ree; Abdulaziz Alomari (Alomari), ab-dool-ah-ZEEZ’ ahl ohm-AR’-ee; Satam al-Suqami (al-Suqami), sah-TAHM’ ahl soo-KAHM’-ee.

The idea for the reference guide came, appropriately enough, from two of the reporters who have been working on the cooperative’s 9/11 coverage: Amy Westfeldt, the AP’s 9/11 editor (yes, the AP has a 9/11 editor), and Jeff McMillan, its assistant East editor in Philadelphia. The pair realized how useful a guide could be to fellow reporters and analysts who are creating their own 9/11 anniversary coverage. It didn’t take much for Minthorn and his team in New York to agree.

And while the reference took work to compile, it wasn’t created from scratch. The guide features a mix of anniversary-specific entries — “twin towers (lowercase)” — and entries that are culled from the Stylebook proper (“Osama bin Laden,” and, of course, “9/11″). It’s roughly a half-and-half breakdown, Minthorn estimates.

Here’s the list, below, prefaced with the memo sent out to AP editors:

BC-US–Sept 11-Style And Reference Guide, Advisory

Sept. 11 Style and Reference Guide

Editors:

To help with standard phrasing and consistency of coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, The Associated Press has compiled a Sept. 11 Style and Reference Guide. A few of the items are included in the AP Stylebook, but the majority are based on AP usage that has developed over time. As you’ll see, it includes guidance on spelling, pronunciation, frequently used terms and a timeline of events as they unfolded.

The AP

____

The Associated Press
Sept. 11 Style and Reference Guide

airline, airlines
Capitalize airlines, air lines and airways when used as part of a proper airline name. American Airlines, United Airlines.

airport
Capitalize as part of a proper name: LaGuardia Airport, O’Hare International Airport.

The first name of an individual and the word international may be deleted from a formal airport name while the remainder is capitalized: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Kennedy International Airport, or Kennedy Airport. Use whichever is appropriate in the context.

Do not make up names, however. There is no Boston Airport, for example. The Boston airport (lowercase airport) would be acceptable if for some reason the proper name, Logan International Airport, were not used.

Newark International Airport was renamed Newark Liberty International Airport after Sept. 11.

al-Qaida
Headed by Osama bin Laden until his death by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May 2011. Pronounced al-KY’-ee-duh.

bin Laden, Osama
Use bin Laden in all references except at the start of a sentence. It is the family preference for the last name, which is an exception to the general rule on Arabic names. He founded al-Qaida and was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May 2011. Pronounced oh-SAH’-muh bin LAH’-din.

Flight 93
Acceptable in first reference for United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pa. Include airline name and context of crash in subsequent references. Flight 93 memorial is acceptable in all references for the Flight 93 National Memorial at the crash site.

ground zero
Acceptable term for the World Trade Center site.

hijackers
The flights they hijacked, where the planes crashed, their full names, their names on second reference and their pronunciation. Note that in Arabic, stressed syllables don’t tend to be stressed hard.

American Airlines Flight 11 (World Trade Center’s north tower): Mohamed Atta (Atta), moh-HAM’-ad AT’-ta; Wail Alshehri (Alshehri), WAH’-eyel ahl SHEH’-ree; Waleed M. Alshehri (Alshehri), WAH’-leed ahl SHEH’-ree; Abdulaziz Alomari (Alomari), ab-dool-ah-ZEEZ’ ahl ohm-AR’-ee; Satam al-Suqami (al-Suqami), sah-TAHM’ ahl soo-KAHM’-ee.

United Flight 175 (World Trade Center’s south tower): Marwan al-Shehhi (al-Shehhi), mar-WAHN’ ahl SHEH’-hee; Fayez Ahmed (Ahmed), FEYE’-ez AH’-med; Ahmed Alghamdi (Alghamdi), AH’-med ahl HAHM’-ed-ee; Hamza Alghamdi (Alghamdi), HAHM’-zeh ahl HAHM’-ed-ee; Mohand Alshehri (Alshehri); moh-HAHN’-ed ahl SHE’-ree.

American Airlines Flight 77 (Pentagon): Hani Hanjour (Hanjour); hah-nee han-joor; Khalid Almihdhar (Almihdhar), KHAL’-led al-meh-DAHR’; Majed Moqed (Moqed), MAH’-jed moo-KED’; Nawaf Alhamzi (Alhamzi) nuh-WEHF’ ahl ham-ZEE’; Salem Alhamzi (Alhamzi), sah-LEEM’ ahl ham-ZEE’.

United Airlines Flight 93 (Pennsylvania): Ziad Samir Jarrah (Jarrah), ZEYE’-ed suh-MEER’ jer-RAH’; Saeed Alghamdi (Alghamdi); SAH’-eed ahl HAHM’-ed-ee; Ahmed Alhaznawi (Alhaznawi); AH’-med ahl HAS’-nuh-wee; Ahmed Alnami (Alnami), AH’-med ahl NAH’-mee.

Lower Manhattan Development Corp.
Use in first reference for the agency created to help New York recover from the Sept. 11 attacks. Rebuilding agency or the agency are acceptable in subsequent references.

9/11
Acceptable in all references to describe the attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Not 9-11 or 911.

9/11 Commission
Acceptable in all references for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

1 World Trade Center
The official name of the skyscraper being built on the World Trade Center site. Formerly known as the Freedom Tower.

Pentagon
The headquarters of the Department of Defense, struck by American Airlines Flight 77. Located in Arlington, Va.

Sept. 11
The term for describing the attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Use 2001 if needed for clarity. Also acceptable is 9/11.

Sept. 11 memorial
Acceptable in all references to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at ground zero. Add location for clarity if story references other memorials with similar names.

twin towers
Lowercase this popular term for referring to the two tallest buildings in the World Trade Center complex. Also lowercase north tower and south tower.

victims
The Sept. 11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people:
_ 2,753 in New York. Includes three later deaths from respiratory disease that have since been linked to illnesses caused by the towers’ collapse.
_ 40 in Pennsylvania.
_ 184 at the Pentagon.
_ Total: 2,977 as of July 25, 2011.
_ 2,983 names will be listed on the Sept. 11 memorial, including six who died in the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing.

World Trade Center
Name of the seven-building complex in lower Manhattan destroyed on Sept. 11; trade center and trade center site (lowercase) are acceptable in later references. WTC or WTC site are acceptable shorthand in headlines.
___
A TIMELINE OF THE EVENTS OF SEPT. 11:

8 a.m. EDT _ American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 with 92 people on board, takes off from Boston’s Logan International Airport for Los Angeles.
8:14 a.m. _ United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767 with 65 people on board, takes off from Logan for Los Angeles.
8:21 a.m. _ American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 with 64 people on board, takes off from Washington Dulles International Airport for Los Angeles.
8:40 a.m. _ Federal Aviation Administration notifies North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Northeast Air Defense Sector about suspected hijacking of American Flight 11.
8:41 a.m. _ United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 with 44 people on board, takes off from Newark International Airport for San Francisco.
8:43 a.m. _ FAA notifies NORAD about suspected hijacking of United Flight 175.
8:46 a.m. _ American Flight 11 crashes into north tower of World Trade Center.
9:03 a.m. _ United Flight 175 crashes into south tower.
9:08 a.m. _ FAA bans all takeoffs nationwide for flights going to or through its New York Center airspace.
9:21 a.m. _ All bridges and tunnels into Manhattan are closed.
9:24 a.m. _ FAA notifies NORAD about suspected hijacking of American Flight 77.
9:26 a.m. _ FAA bans takeoffs of all civilian aircraft.
9:31 a.m. _ President Bush, in Florida, calls crashes an “apparent terrorist attack on our country.”
9:40 a.m. _ American Flight 77 crashes into Pentagon.
9:45 a.m. _ FAA orders all aircraft to land at nearest airport as soon as practical. More than 4,500 aircraft are in air at the time.
9:48 a.m. _ U.S. Capitol and White House’s West Wing evacuated.
9:59 a.m. _ South tower of trade center collapses.
10:07 a.m. (approx.) _ United Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania field.
10:28 a.m. _ North tower of trade center collapses.
11:00 a.m. _ New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani orders evacuation of lower Manhattan.
1:04 p.m. _ Bush, at Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana, announces U.S. military on high alert worldwide.
2:51 p.m. _ Navy dispatches missile destroyers to New York, Washington.
3:07 p.m. _ Bush arrives at Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
5:25 p.m. _ Empty 47-story 7 World Trade Center collapses.

                                   
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  • Pingback: Stories Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2011 : Media News At This Hour

  • http://twitter.com/911Healing 9-11 Healing

    Amazing that there is a style guide directed explicitly at 9-11. We are issuing a Media Advisory to encourage news organizations to approach this historic event with sensitivity and respect for survivors and for the victim’s families members. We want to avoid re-traumatization. The release will be out next week, but I am happy to speak to anyone before hand.
    Jackie
    http://www.9-11HealingandRemembrance.org
    jvendetti@mhaofnyc.org

  • Trialvisit

    Too bad it’s not a broadcast style guide. Maybe then we’d get a rule for one, and only one, correct English pronunciation of Iraq.

  • Pingback: The AP Releases 9/11 Style Guide - FishbowlNY

  • http://twitter.com/seasononthe101 Season

    What a sad day that was. For years afterwards, I took the day off from work on the anniversary, to reflex on what we went through. I know I’ll be working on this anniversary but will never forget. 

  • http://twitter.com/seasononthe101 Season

    What a sad day that was. For years afterwards, I took the day off from work on the anniversary, to reflex on what we went through. I know I’ll be working on this anniversary but will never forget. 

  • Pingback: Stories Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2011 : Media News At This Hour

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  • http://twitter.com/UKProgressive DenisCampbell

    Brilliant work. Every newsroom, print AND broadcast should have this as a resource. Now if we could only get opinion journalists to follow the facts vs. conspiracy theories that advance their agenda we’d be much better off.

  • Pingback: AP Guidelines for Specific Situations – 9/11 « AU Public Relations

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  • Jhuffman

    This is great. Another helpful resource I have found is “American Muslims, a journalist’s guide to understanding Islam and Muslims.”  Published by CAIR.

  • alley pat

    wow

  • alley pat

    wow

  • http://www.facebook.com/ThePreambleProject Bill Wilt

       Aside from the discrepancy of 5:20 vs 5:25 pm when #7 was brought down, and 10:07 Approx) United flight 93 crashes, etc. The “citizen time-line” has this entry: Before 10:06 a.m. Flight 93 apparently starts to break up before it crashes, because debris is found very far away from the crash site. (philly daily news, 11/15/2001. Smaller debris fields are found two, three and eight miles away (cites newspaper–probably AP members). That’s just not proven. Period.

     And I Just ran into another interesting take on your take-off times, here: 
    http://letsrollforums.com/happened-passengers-4-flights-t20496.html
    I have no idea who these guys are, but they reproduce/recreate a 9/11/2001 table from the Bureau of Traffic Statistics (which is what?, how compiled, what provenance–chain of possession, etc.), “showing [that] flight 11 never departed from Boston Logan International Airport on 9/11/2001. Scheduled departure time, 7:45; actual, 00:00.  BTS is a limb (arm or leg) of the Research & Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), US Department of Transportation.And Thompson’s 9/11 timeline  for the day (http://www.historycommons.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=complete_911_timeline&complete_911_timeline_key_events=complete_911_timeline_key_day_of_9_11_events) does not note the times of departure, as you do.    The Let’s Roll gang hypothesizes (out of curiosity, I hope, and not schizophrenic paranoia) that, because no airport surveillance videos of the passengers in the passenger lounges was adduced during any of the “investigations”, that said the withholding of said videos (if they exist) would show the “passengers” to be not as claimed (stand-ins–an Operation Northwoods variant), or that they were boarding from a place other than the “flight 11″ gate at Logan.   The larger theory being that 9/11 was a hoax, a staged contrivance in which neither passengers nor WTC denizens were killed, but it was made to appear that they were–again, striving for the same impact, but without the risk of annoyed survivors seeking revenge in kind on the perps themselves.  As I said, interesting, especially in light of the odd landings of two similar planes at Cleveland’s airport. One, Delta 1989, at 10:10, with 69 passengers, and an unidentified flight, Flight X, at 10:45, with 200 passengers. The airport was evacuated; the FBI interviewed all passengers. Any record of those interviews? etc.     Bottom line: I’m definitely queasy, uneasy, gasping and wheezy about the AP putting forth unattributed, unproven info, as if it were “da trute,” was “proven,” or as “fax, ma’am, just the fax”–we don’t need no stinkin’ printout, information that is still very much in play.     I’d suggest you attribute all of the “hijackers”, all of the times in the timeline. (And was #7 indeed “empty”?

         My thinking has progressed to the point where I’d suggest you note your source for every name on the list, every time in the time line, or just deep-six the entire “factual” portion of your “situational style guide.” In NewSpeak, I’d say the guide is “double-plus ungood, a disservice to your AP members and to their readers, listeners, and/or watchers. And not in a good way.

    bw

  • http://twitter.com/SkokiePatch Skokie IL Patch

    A year later and this article is still helpful. Much thanks.