Two public editors blogged this past week about what to call the Middle East-based terrorist organization widely known as ISIS.
This concern about the organization’s name is not surprising, given the amount of news coverage it has garnered after the attacks on Paris and the various names ascribed to the terrorists.
NPR public editor Elizabeth Jensen’s Nov. 20 post was headlined, “Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh?” Jensen stated NPR’s policy for describing the group despite the competing names: “Current NPR policy, as at many major English-language media outlets, is to refer to the group as ‘Islamic State’ — which is a shortened version of the English translation of what it calls itself — and to add the caveats ‘self-described’ or ‘self-declared.'” Despite that policy, sometimes NPR refers to the group as ISIS, she wrote.
As an explanation for those name choices, Jensen quoted standards editor Mark Memmott who said Islamic State is “the clearest and most succinct English translation of the group’s name.” On the other hand, Daesh is “least familiar” with NPR’s audience. He went on:
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“We advise our journalists to remind listeners and Web users that it is a ‘self-described’ or ‘self-declared’ Islamic State to make clear that the organization is not a ‘state’ in the usual sense of that word, even though it claims to be one. On second reference, we use the acronym ISIS because it is based on that English translation of the group’s full name – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or al-Sham).”
Likewise, Toronto Star public editor Kathy English’s Nov. 21 post asks “Talking terror: What’s in a name?”
“The Star, in line with the current style of most international news organizations and wire services, now refers to the ‘Islamic State group’ or ‘Islamic State militants,'” she wrote. “In headlines, that can be shortened to ‘ISIS’ — the short form of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
She noted that the wire service Canadian Press, however, calls the group the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant or ISIL, and the BBC calls it the “self-styled” or “so-called” Islamic State to add distancing language.
For our part, at iMediaEthics, we typically use ISIS to refer to the terrorist group as that is the most common name we’ve seen used.