In October 2018, President Russell M. Nelson formally announced a new emphasis on using the correct name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This included an updated style guide as well as the endorsement by the Associated Press style guide for most of the Church’s recommendations. So, why do most major news organizations refuse to honor the request of the Church to stop using the term “Mormon.” Christopher Cunningham, managing editor of Public Square magazine, tried to find the answer.
Together with the Elizabeth McCune Institute, we looked at coverage of the Church for a five-month period between July 15, 2019, and December 15, 2019, by the twenty largest news websites in the United States. What we found was that journalists who wrote negative articles about the Church or its members were more likely to use the term “Mormon” than other style guide terms.
Between July 15, 2019, and December 14, 2019, the twenty largest news websites in the United States published 421 articles that referenced the Church. Overall, 180 of the 421 articles (43%) adhered in large measure to the Church’s style guide recommendations. With regard to articles that focused more directly on the Church only about 94 of 265 articles (35%) adhered to the style guide recommendations. Among the full-set of articles, 52 of the articles refer to the Church in the article’s title. Of those, 5 (10%) refer to the Church according to any of the style-guide recommended names for the Church, 4 (8%) refer to the “LDS Church.” The remaining 43 (83%) used the term “Mormon.”
While some journalists and outlets are correctly using the recommended name of the Church, many are still using the term “Mormon,” particularly in headlines. Why has the usage standard been adopted in some cases but not in others?