Say My Name, Say My Name

Friday, November 30, 2007


Senator Clinton? Clinton? Hillary? In response to a listener’s letter we explore how the media and On The Media refer to the junior senator from New York.

Comments [12]

Pat from Boston, MA

Hillary is a great name for Hillary Rodham to help differentiate her from her husband, whose terms of office were not so long ago. It also helps to make her a more popular, and familiar candidate. Her husband used the same approach as Bill when he became known, and her use of Hillary projects, to some degree, that ease of personalization that helped her husband to become a popular President.

The media, no doubt, knows when it is appropriate to address or discuss her more formally due to the status of her office, whether Senator or President, without having to be told, and need not agonize over how to reference her.

If she isn't bothered by it, why should the press be? If they are concerned, why not ask her herself?

Dec. 14 2007 06:19 PM
Robin Dreyer from Burnsville, NC

I just listened to this spot again to see if I was imagining things, but, no, Bob actually said the press is "blameless" in this situation. Are you kidding? Don't you guys have standards? As someone points out above, the New York Times doesn't do this. You know why? They have a style book that calls for Mr. or Ms on second reference and copy editors who fix it if a reporter slips.

Apparently broadcasters don't have any guidelines or standards, so they are subject to their habits or to simply calling people according to how they call themselves. Hmm, when you talk about the president of North Korea, do you find yourself reflexively referring to him as "The Dear Leader" because that's how he's "branded" himself?

This is really coming from the same kind of diminishment of women in power that leads the President (or should I call him George) to constantly refer to the secretary of state as "Condi." In his defense, I have occasionally heard him us "Dick" and "Don" to refer to other prominent administration officials, but on many occasions I have heard him say "Vice President Cheney," "Secretary Rumsfeld," and "Condi" in the same paragraph. Even if he's doing this because she's his best friend, he is still denying her the same level of respect he is according to others.

So don't be like President George; set a standard for how you will refer to public figures and stick to it.

Dec. 05 2007 09:14 AM
Beth B from SF bay area

To all who are excusing Senator Clinton's possible defeat on her sex: I and most of my friends...male and female...voted for Shirley Chisholm in the primaries back in the 70s. But I will never pull the lever for Hillary Clinton!!! And it has nothing to do with her sex! She speaks from both sides of her mouth and often never clears it up. She has filled her coffers with defense industry donations and she says nothing is off the table when it comes to Iran. According to reports, she also showed up at the Canadian meeting of the Bilderberg power brokers of the world, and she has many past question marks. Oh, and you can call me by my first name and I will pay attention much faster than to your calling me by my father's name.

Dec. 04 2007 08:55 PM
Lara Cassell

Marie C. Wilson, President and Founder of The White House Project, is the featured speaker in this interview. An advocate of women’s issues for more than 30 years, Marie C. Wilson is founder and President of The White House Project, co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work ® Day and author of Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World (Viking 2004).

In 1998, Wilson founded The White House Project in recognition of the need to build a truly representative democracy – one where women lead alongside men in all spheres. Since its inception, The White House Project has been a leading advocate and voice on women’s leadership. For more information, please visit, or call 212.261.4400.

Dec. 04 2007 12:23 PM
Lisa Shingler from Bennington, NH

I grew up in South Carolina where the only adult women I was permitted to call by their first names were "colored" maids. Although I was also required to say "m'am" to these "ladies", the message that they had lower status and authority than "white ladies" was there every time their names were spoken. My teenage sons moan in unison when I bristle at the end of each On The Media program when Bob Garfield says (in a tone that sounds both affectionate and condescending to me), "edited by ... Brooke." Although casual first name address is used during the program, everyone else who is named as contributing to the program is referred to by first and last name. Why the difference?

Dec. 03 2007 09:54 AM
Lynn Basa from Chicago

Kudos to OTM for asking this question. It bugs me every time I hear any commentator refer to Senator Clinton by her first name for all the reasons your guest outlined. (The comment by a listener about the first-name porn name, also applies.) I hope that from now on you will refer to Mrs. Clinton with the same respect accorded to the other senators and candidates. Maybe it'll catch on.

Dec. 02 2007 01:10 PM
Christy Karras from Utah

This has bothered me for a long time when news organizations refer to women. It is a reflection of how we see women in power, and it's a disappointment to me, as a journalist, that more organizations don't take more care to follow the same rules with Hillary Clinton's name as they do with others'. In most cases, this means using first and second name on first reference, and last name only thereafter. The majority of stories are about one or the other Clinton, so it's clear from the outset who the subject is, and therefore last name only should work perfectly fine. In stories that include both spouses, most organizations use both first and last names when necessary to avoid confusion. The New York Times does tend to follow its usual style on second reference (e.g. Mr. or Mrs. Clinton), which makes identity perfectly clear.

Journalists who use the first name only, when it is not their usual style to do so, are doing a disservice to not only the subject but themselves. While I think the candidate also does herself a disservice by referring to herself by first name only, that's less the point here. It's not a matter of how the candidate brands herself as it is about journalistic professionalism, consistency and accuracy, which should always be (but are too rarely!) paramount in the profession.

Dec. 02 2007 01:04 PM
James Harrington from Kennett Square, PA

First names: Your guest's historical knowledge seems to be lacking. What about "Honest Abe", "I Like Ike", "Tippicanoe" Harrison, "Teddy" Roosevelt, and "Give 'em hell, Harry". Even in the present day there are references to "King George" and "Shrub" as well as "Slick Willie" and "Bill" Clinton.

Dec. 02 2007 11:53 AM
Leon McMorrow from Austin, TX

Marie Wills[?] of the White House ... stated only part of the reason for the women/authority problem as: "wife and mother" image.
The far more potent and common image in the mass media and in advertising (especially now the Internet) is the sex-entertainment symbol. That is what draws laughs in the U.S. where women are routinely "downsized" to the entertainment level whenever they try to climb the ladder. Hollywood and advertising (e.g. club ads., comics, movie posters) have done their job only too well among the male population.
It is quite a contrast with the European model, even in countries where prostitution is legal. They also had/have a Queen tradition, unlike the I.S.
'Hillary' has that monkey on her back and I think it will kill her chances for President in this generation. America is still not ready and the cause is obvious. Even Wonder Woman with her outfit is a sex symbol to boys, not a powerhouse.

Dec. 02 2007 10:44 AM
JAMES NEE from Santa Cruz, CA (KAZU-FM)

How can I contact the woman interviewed who is head of the organization (Democratic something?) that champions women retaining power in their personal and public relations? I want to have my 26 yr. old daughter contact her.


Dec. 01 2007 07:41 PM
David Bell from Taipei, Taiwan

Interesting note: Senator Clinton is know here in Taiwan by her Chinese name Xi-la-rui (pronounced roughly like Sea-lah-ray) and in mainland China as Xi-la-li (Sea-lah-lee), closely following the pronunciation of "Hillary." As far as I know, she's the only foreign politician (or famous personality of any kind in recent memory for that matter) to be known in the press here by their first name only.

David Bell

Dec. 01 2007 01:38 PM
Lou Leonhardt from Hills IA

I remember they called Margaret Thatcher & Golda Maier by first and last names. Your researchers can go back to find out the practices at that time. Maybe it is the first reference (President George Bush) followed by only the last name in other references. Thanks for the program.

Dec. 01 2007 08:53 AM

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