Islamic Community Center vs. Mosque: Three Blocks Away From Ground Zero

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Here are a couple of articles that describe best the disinformation regarding the Islamic Community Center (Which is not a Mosque):

Mon Aug 16, 5:03 pm ET
News outlets split in describing mosque

By Michael Calderone

There is no mosque being built on the site of Ground Zero. It's a simple fact, but one that news consumers can be forgiven for missing. In covering the growing controversy over the proposed Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, the national media, led by the big cable networks, have by default shaped the increasingly heated debate by repeatedly referring to the project as the "Ground Zero mosque." An MSNBC spokesman said that describing the project is a "show-by-show decision," while a CNN spokesperson said the network guides anchors in written copy to refer to the project as "an Islamic center that includes a mosque that is near Ground Zero, or is two blocks from Ground Zero."

Of course, political pundits may stray from the network's phrasing and inaccurately describe the location of the planned building at the center of the furor. But Phil Corbett, the New York Times' standards editor said, "Given how politically volatile this discussion has been, we think it's important to be accurate and precise," in explaining the paper's consistent references to the planned structure being two blocks from the Ground Zero site. The "Park51" project, as it's officially dubbed, is in fact planned for a site two blocks from where the World Trade Center towers fell, amid other lower Manhattan establishments whose names have never featured the words "Ground Zero." If built, the 13-story community center and mosque project will be one of hundreds of buildings located within blocks of Ground Zero — a densely populated area that already includes a couple of mosques, along with less "hallowed" institutions, like strip clubs, bars and Off Track Betting operations.

But Park51 is getting all the attention downtown — and now, nationwide. President Obama
affirmed the constitutional right to build a mosque on private property Friday, breathing new life into an already long-raging controversy. In covering Obama's recent remarks — and the past couple months of debate — the media's played a pivotal role in framing the issues at hand. Here's a rundown of how the media covered the debate as it took shape.

Location, location, location

News organizations make conscious decisions when they describe a construction work-
in-progress as either located on the site of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history or two
blocks away. The New York Times — except for one blog headline — has consistently
described the mosque in headlines as not being built at Ground Zero but "near" the site.
Corbett, who oversees the Times standards on such questions, told The Upshot that he
hasn't issued any formal guidelines but has discussed that particular phrasing with editors.


"To call it the Ground Zero Mosque not only would give you the impression that it's on the
site of the Trade Center," he continued, "but it might even give you the further impression
that it's part of the rebuilding process to that site." The Times appears to be in the minority, judging by headlines related to Obama's remarks.  Many news organizations ran headlines this past weekend describing a "Ground Zero mosque," including the Associated Press, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Fox News,
New York Daily News, Politico, and AOL's Politics Daily site. (Yahoo! News, linking to
an AP story on the remarks, similarly went with "Ground Zero mosque.") Several other
news organizations routinely place "Ground Zero" in quotation marks, which is more of
shorthand way of describing the debate without pinpointing the location. Still, shorthand
also plays a significant part in how the media frames debates. Anyone who's picked up a
newspaper or turned on cable news has likely heard about the "Ground Zero mosque"
and the controversy surrounding it. It's perhaps the simplest way to jump into a story that's
now lasted more than two months.

Beginning of the "Ground Zero mosque" narrative

Salon's Justin Elliot noted Monday that the "Ground Zero mosque" controversy started to
take shape in early May, with conservative Pamela Geller, of the Atlas Shrugs blog, and
the New York Post leading the charge. It was only after such opposition gained
steam — and in the wake of an important local community board vote — that the words
"Ground Zero mosque" started appearing in headlines of national publications. The AP, for
one, didn't refer to the project as the "Ground Zero mosque" until late May, according to a
Lexis-Nexis search. On May 6, the AP ran the following headline: "Plan for mosque near
9/11-damaged site "Up until May 24, AP headlines were always clear that the project isn't
going to be built at Ground Zero. That day's headline: "Landmark status could stop mosque
near ground zero." But on May 25, the AP ran the following: "Groups to present NY ground zero mosque plans." And the next day: "NYC community board OKs ground zero mosque plans." Since late May, the AP has described the projected in headlines as the "Ground Zero mosque" on numerous, but not all, occasions. Following the president's remarks, the AP ran this headline: "Obama supports 'the right' for ground zero mosque."

Chad Roedemeier, assistant chief of AP's New York bureau, told The Upshot in an email
that "the slug" — a journalistic shorthand for what an article's about—"on the story has
always been Ground Zero mosque, and it has appeared that way sometimes in headlines."
"But the proposed mosque is actually two blocks away from ground zero, and our stories
have always said 'a planned mosque near ground zero,' " Roedemeier continued. "We never say 'a mosque at ground zero.' " It's true that the AP's coverage of the debate is always clear, often in the lead sentence, that construction would be two blocks away.

Roedemeier noted that the AP has used "ground zero mosque" twice in the body of a story,
but only "when it was described that way by mosque opponents." AP spokesman Paul
Colford told The Upshot that AP "headlines are a telescoping or a shorthanding of a text
and a story." Colford said he was also unaware of any official change in policy that would
explain why AP stories before May 25 didn't refer to a "Ground Zero mosque" in headlines. The 1,500-plus newspapers and websites that run AP copy can change the headlines as they see fit. But given that many newsrooms follow AP style, it's possible they'd also go with the news organization's own usage of "Ground Zero mosque" in headlines.

There goes the neighborhood?

The phrase "Ground Zero mosque" may not only create a perception that the project would
built at Ground Zero, but also that there's a section of Manhattan by that name. Nate Silver, the blogger behind FiveThirtyEight.com, pointed out to headline writers this past weekend that Ground Zero is not a neighborhood. Unlike Manhattan's Upper East Side or Soho, no New Yorker says they live in Ground Zero. Also, two blocks can be worlds apart in Manhattan's real estate market — particularly at the narrow lower tip of the island. In an earlier life as a New York real estate reporter, I've seen firsthand how building prices rise, or dip, considerably, depending on which side of a given street they're on — that's how
small a New York neighborhood can be. The Times' Corbett also pointed out that there
are probably hundreds of buildings within a two-block radius of Ground Zero. The decision
to shy away from dubbing one the "Ground Zero mosque," he said, is "really a question of
being accurate." "We all fall into these forms of shorthand sometimes, when you've written a story so many times," Corbett said. "Sometimes the shorthand can really confuse people or become inaccurate and we need to be wary about that." The Upshot has reached out to Fox News to see if it has specific policies and will update when we hear back.

Ground Zero Mosque?

This past week a simmering controversy over the construction of an Islamic community center two blocks from the World Trade Center reached a boiling point across the country. Republican politicians leading the charge against the center have dubbed it "Ground Zero Mosque," creating the misconception that the hallowed ground of the Twin Towers is being built over and stoking dangerous anti-Muslim fears.

The reality is much more benign: The center, conceived by a Muslim leader known for his interfaith work with the Bush Administration after 9/11 and founded with the mission of spreading religious understanding and tolerance, will provide a swimming pool, auditorium, restaurants, and other spaces open to the community, and is to be built on the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory.

Those fighting against the center have cloaked themselves in the banner of patriotism. But there is nothing patriotic about blocking the right to religious freedom. As New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has said, "The ability to practice your religion was one of the real reasons America was founded." Mayor Bloomberg, who grew up surrounded by anti-Semitism and knows what it feels like to be a target of religious discrimination, reports that all the families of 9/11 victims he has spoken with have been supportive of the building. Referring to the victims, Bloomberg says, "We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights - and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked." The decision of whether the Islamic center should be allowed to go forward as planned won't impact just one building; it will be seen as a sign of whether America can make peace with Islam.

In the wake of the controversy in New York City, Islamic centers and mosques have been subjected to protests and harassment by right-wing groups across the country. Protestors have shouted that "Jesus hates Muslims" and called Muslim children entering day care centers "murderers." The Christian Dove World Outreach Center has renamed 9/11 "International Burn a Koran Day," and Bryan Fischer of the right-wing American Family Association says that we should not allow "even one more mosque in the United States of America." This is a defining moment for the country. Will we stand strong in support of our principles of religious freedom and tolerance, or will we succumb to hate and ignorance and fear? Generations of Americans have shed blood to protect our First Amendment right to religious freedom for a reason. Let us not easily forget that.

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