NPR doesn’t call Christine Blasey Ford “Dr.” when reporting on her or her allegations against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The reason is because of NPR style, public editor Elizabeth Jensen explained.
While Ford has a doctorate in educational psychology, and some outlets refer to her as Dr. Ford, NPR’s decision against using the title “rankled” some readers, at least two who thought it was biased against her, Jensen wrote in a recent column.
The reason isn’t bias, though, according to Jensen who pointed to NPR style and the Associated Press stylebook, both which call for the doctor label to be reserved for physicians. She reported:
“As NPR’s standards editor Mark Memmott told me, “the idea is that for most listeners a ‘Dr.’ practices medicine.” The language policy is based on the standard laid out by the AP Stylebook, which many news outlets, including NPR, follow. (One notable exception: The New York Times.)”
That exception is that the Times has its own stylebook. The New York Times‘ reader center published an article in Dec. 2017 about its guidance for the use of honorifics and decision-making in assigning honorifics and titles. iMediaEthics has written to the Times to confirm this practice still stands. In that article, the Times wrote:
“Questions also arise about titles for medical doctors. Our style is to use ‘Dr.’ only for those whose medical practice remains their primary occupation. That means doctors-turned-politicians get ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms.,’ not ‘Dr.’ Here, too, the practice is nonpartisan. Howard Dean, a doctor, former Vermont governor and onetime Democratic candidate for president, is “Mr. Dean” for us, and Senator Rand Paul, a Republican and ophthalmologist, is ‘Mr. Paul.'”
Jensen included the AP style guidance which reads:
“If appropriate in the context, Dr. also may be used on first reference before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees. However, because the public frequently identifies Dr. only with physicians, care should be taken to ensure that the individual’s specialty is stated in first or second reference. The only exception would be a story in which the context left no doubt that the person was a dentist, psychologist, chemist, historian, etc.”