What did you think when you first heard a newscaster say, "Ground Zero mosque"?
Were you shocked? I was.
I'm all about the First Amendment, but any religious edifice--be it mega church, synagogue, mosque, Scientology lair, whatever--on the site of the World Trade seems odd. There were Christians, Jews, agnostics, atheists, and Muslims killed inside the World Trade Center. Why not a non-denominational worship center? I thought.
And then I stayed tuned.
When the cable news channel returned from break I learned that a group didn't plan to build a mosque ("community center," actually) on Ground Zero, but near Ground Zero, two blocks away. Big difference. Calling it the "Ground Zero mosque" is a misnomer. But dropping "Ground Zero mosque" in a headline or teaser--just as I did--sure grabs the eyes, doesn't it?
Problem is people rarely read below the headline or listen to the full report, especially when it's not about Mel Gibson's ex or Heidi Montag's plastic surgeon. As PR professionals, you know that all too well. How often does your boss or a client call to complain about a possibly misleading headline, even though the actual story is clear and positive? You're left calling the reporter or editor to complain. And guess what they're saying about you in that newsroom? "What an asshole."
Would this debate have happened if the media continually referred to it as the "mosque near Ground zero"? Hard to say--but we'll never know.