Just sort of noticed in passing that that release I posted yesterday about Jenny Sanford referred to her as the “former first lady.” And now I suddenly notice (gotta tell you, I don’t exactly devour most stories that have her in the headline), that’s the standard in news stories about her. Such as this.
Huh. I wonder — is that right? And if so, when did it happen? Automatically when she got her divorce? (It was flatly stated here, but who was the authority?) And if so, based on what rule or precedent? Who’s the arbiter, or the keeper of the style? Is there a written protocol rule, anywhere, on this?
Did someone just assume, and others followed suit? Maybe if I were still at the newspaper, I would have seen the memo. But I never saw a memo. I wonder if there was one. (Now watch: Like the guy in “Office Space,” I’ll get eight copies of it.)
It might be a small thing to you, but only if you’ve never been a professional journalist. Journalists have extensive debates about things like this. They form committees. They set rules. (We can be pretty ridiculous about it, something that is easy to parody.) Somewhere, someone has done that. And did they rule correctly?
I mean, isn’t she the first lady if she is still performing the duties of first lady, which last I heard she was? It’s not like anyone else is the first lady? Or is that the way we settle the issue of what to call That Other Woman?