I had to weigh in on my colleague Duby McDowell’s column on how to address politicians, nicely followed up by Pat Scully. Their commentaries are below.
I’ve always addressed elected officials and politicians by their titles or Mr., Ms. etc. after a lesson I learned in 1989, interviewing then Illinois congresswoman Lynn Martin at my first television job with WREX-TV in Rockford, Illinois.
Lynn Martin, former U.S. Rep. Lynn Martin (R) IL
After calling her “Congresswoman” she told me to call her “Lynn,” so I did. What did I know? I was a twenty-something cub reporter who did what an elected official told me to do. Later my boss told me never to do that again.
Two years later when working in Michigan, a similar edict came from my news director at
WWMT after a reporter called then Governor John Engler by his first name.
When I came to WFSB I remember being surprised at a news conference with Senator Joe Lieberman when a veteran reporter prefaced a question with “Joe.” This was Hartford, then the 23rd biggest TV market in the nation, not Rockford or Grand Rapids where such mistakes were somewhat expected.
Many of my guests on Face the State have asked me to call them Dick or Linda or Tom or whatever. I told them I prefer to address them by their title. That’s what Tim Russert did.
When a congressional candidate came on recently I wasn’t sure what to call her. I had called Janet Peckinpaugh “Janet” when she was my co-anchor, so Ms. Peckinpaugh seemed kind of strange. Still, I think that’s what I’ll call her from here on in.