AP: It’s Not a ‘Ground Zero Mosque,’ People

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Richard H. Cohen/Corbis

“Ground zero mosque” — the term is so simple! So evocative! So … inaccurate and misleading?

True wisdom is to call each thing by its proper name, but some things take a while for us to figure out what to call them. (Is it the ‘BP oil spill,’ the ‘Deepwater Horizon spill’ or the ‘Gulf of Mexico oil spill?’) Other things find their names right away, even when those names are not, technically speaking, correct.

As the furor around the proposed mosque in downtown Manhattan escalates, you may have heard the project called ‘Park51’ (its new name) or ‘Cordoba House (the original name.) But you have definitely heard it called ‘the ground zero mosque.’ Part of this is due to fear-mongering on the part of certain rabble-rousers, part of this is due to cynical SEO strategy, but mostly it’s because it’s a simple, memorable and powerful term. A born meme, if you will.

But, as you may well know (or deny, even if your heart of hearts) the term is wrong: the mosque is planned for two blocks away from Ground Zero, at the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory. And now the Associated Press is striking a blow for the forces of accuracy.

In a staff memo, AP Deputy Managing Editor Tom Kent advises:

“We should continue to avoid the phrase “ground zero mosque” or “mosque at ground zero” on all platforms. […] The site of the proposed Islamic center and mosque is not at ground zero, but two blocks away in a busy commercial area. We should continue to say it’s “near” ground zero, or two blocks away.”

If those are too wordy for short headlines and slugs, Kent suggests these terms: ‘mosque 2 blocks from WTC site,’ ‘Muslim (or Islamic) center near WTC site, ‘mosque near ground zero,’ or ‘mosque near WTC site.’

NewsFeed admits that we’ve fallen under the spell of ‘ground zero mosque’ as much as anyone. But no more! We don’t care how much search traffic we lose, from now on we will not bow to the power of inaccurate memes.