So this error is a small thing.
Maybe that's true, but in journalism the small details really matter. This includes using the proper name for things.
Try to imagine, if you will, a sportswriter producing a story about a game involving a sports team from the University of Tennessee and simply referring to the squad as the Volunteers, with no mention of the full name of the institution.
Now, a writer here in the mountains of East Tennessee near the giant, iconic structure called Neyland Stadium might be able to get away with that. But what about a news writer for a global wire service, with readers all over the place? After all, Tennessee has a lot of teams and, come to think of it, the word "volunteers" has meanings elsewhere other than the historic hook that is well known around this neck of the woods (I live in Oak Ridge).
So imagine traveling to Salt Lake City and producing a story about African-American Mormons for the global Associated Press and, well, forgetting to use a rather important term. Here's the top of the report. What's missing in this sizable chunk of the text?
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- African-American Mormons discussed the ongoing challenges of belonging to a predominantly white religion ... during a university conference designed to address the status of blacks in the faith.
Darius Gray, a pioneering black Mormon, commended church leaders for publishing an essay in 2013 that disavowed a previous ban on blacks in the lay priesthood. The essay offered the most comprehensive explanation ever from church headquarters about the ban that was in place until 1978. Still, Gray noted, only two in 10 Mormons have read the essay, limiting its impact.
The common theme at the conference at the University of Utah: Discussions about race in the Mormon religion don't happen enough at congregational levels.
"There is a level of fear in exposing the truth behind the racist history of the church," said Paulette Payne, a Mormon TV personality in Atlanta who moderated a panel on race and Mormon women. "When you fear something, you don't necessarily want to expose it for what it is because it then becomes a reflection of you."
Panels filled with academics and Mormons bookended a lunch speech from Joseph W. Sitati of Kenya, a member of a second-tier Mormon governing body called the Quorum of the Seventy.
Spot the hole?
Yes, the story goes on and it contains some interesting material and it raises some interesting issue about lingering racial issues in what has become a rapidly growing religious movement around this diverse world of ours.
However, at some point in the story, wouldn't it have been good to have actually used the actual name of this religious group, as in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? After all, there are other groups that use the "Mormon" label. Yes, the actual name of the church never appears in the story. Ever.
Later on, there is this:
About 3 percent of Mormons in the United States are African-American, the Pew Research Center estimated in 2009. About 5 percent of all worldwide members are of African descent, estimates Matt Martinich, a member of the LDS church who analyzes membership numbers with the nonprofit Cumorah Foundation.
And what, pray tell, does that "LDS" reference mean? Did someone on the copy desk simply cut out the full first reference to the name of this body and no one caught the error? Frankly, I suspect that is what happened.
Yes, the proper word here is "error." The Associated Press Stylebook sitting to the right of my computer keyboard lays down this law on this:
Acceptable in all references for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but always include the full name in a story dealing primarily with church activities. ...
The word "always," when looked up in a dictionary, at the very least, or dare I say always, means the following:
1. at all times; on all occasions.
So, might the Associated Press need to run a correction here, if the goal is to always honor its stylebook?