Reports of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi‘s death dominated the new Thursday morning (Oct. 20). What were first couched as “unconfirmed reports” gave way to more confident assertions that the man who had ruled Libya for 42 years had been killed in his hometown of Sirte.
The cable news networks and a number of major newspaper sites ran a graphic photo (warning: don’t quick the link if you’re squeamish) of Gadhafi’s body, taken by a soldier for the transitional government on a cell phone, and we saw a number of reports of jubilant Libyans celebrating in Tripoli, the capital.
But while consensus eventually emerged on whether Gadhafi was actually dead, there was one thing media outlets couldn’t agree on: how to spell Gadhafi’s name (for the record, we’re going with the spelling used by the Associated Press). In clicking around on the coverage, both on TV and online, we found his name spelled five different ways.
This is not a new phenomenon: “Saturday Night Live” did a bit on the various ways media outlets spell his name … in 1981. You’d think that in the intervening 30 years, the matter would have been settled, but no.
MSNBC couldn’t even agree with itself on how to spell the Libyan dictator’s name. On air Thursday, the news channel was using “Khaddafy,” but online, where the main AP story led its coverage, it was “Gadhafi.” (His first name wasn’t subject to quite as much variation, but some outlets were using Moammar and some Muammar.)
Here are the various spellings we saw in our survey of the news coverage Thursday:
AP, CNN, ABC: Gadhafi
Fox News, CBS, New York Times: Qaddafi
LA Times: Kadafi
Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Time, Newsweek/Daily Beast: Gaddafi