I would like to know why the media (especially TV) refers to our president as Mr. Obama. I was raised to always refer to our commander in chief as president, even after he leaves office. Yet I rarely hear the president referred to as anything other than Mr. Obama in the press. I find it disrespectful and very annoying, to say the least. When did the presidential title change to become Mr.?
— Karen T., Medford
Although we have all manner of political persuasions here at SYA's Body Politic, we agree that the presidential title should always be used when formally referring to our highest elected office, Karen.
And it matters not one whit whether the office holder is Republican or Democrat. For us, it is President Obama, President Bush, President Reagan, President Kennedy, all the way back to President Washington.
While there has been no change in how newspapers approach presidential monikers, today's television and social media has definitely brought a more informal approach to how we address our presidents.
We subscribe to The Associated Press stylebook usage which requires the upper case use of the word "President" before the name of someone in the Oval Office or having served there. However, it would be lowercase if we mentioned that Mr. Smith — Mrs. Smith? — were running for president.
Yet we accept that it is a custom by some publications such as the Wall Street Journal to historically use courtesy titles in subsequent references. Therefore, after introducing President Obama in a story, that publication will refer to the president as Mr. Obama. But it did the same with Messrs. Bush, Reagan and Lincoln, and in fact uses courtesy titles on second references to ordinary people in its stories as well.
As for television, we've heard plenty of uses of "President Obama" in broadcasts. Then again, like you, we've seen and heard a lot of things on the boob tube that we wished we hadn't. If you don't like the sound of "Mr. Obama," wait until you get an earful of Honey Boo Boo.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.