Journalistic jargon

Mar 3rd, 2009 | By | Category: HS Resources

Journalists, who spend so much time trying to keep the jargon of police, doctors and lawyers out of the paper, use a lot of it themselves. These are a few terms that, if you’re new to a newsroom, may make you wonder.

The list is not complete, it is subject to local variations and typographical terms themselves could fill a book.

The background of the story is outlined first without having the specific or major details of the story. This can be written before the beginning of the story has fully developed, saving time on deadline. Sometimes called B-copy.
A.C.E. or Ace
Assistant city editor
Small type often used for statistical data on sports and stock pages. It is a type size of approximately 5 1/2 points tall, a point being 1/72nd of an inch.
See A-matter.
A reporter’s topic area. Courts, religion, education and Macomb County are all beats. Think of reporters covering their areas as a cop might walk a beat.
A sidebar or extra information.
The part of a story that is continued on another page. Sometimes several breaks are gathered together on a “break page.” Also called jumps.
A mid-sentence or paragraph that continues the story on the following page. Sometimes used to mean turnline.
breakout (highlighted text box)
The synopsis of the story. Key highlights of the story that stand out.
A small or tiny story.
brite or bright
A funny, short story.
The size of most dailies, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today and the Free Press. Folded in half, it’s a tabloid, or tab.
The various news departments’ proposals for what they want to put in the newspaper. Has to do with space and news, not dollars.
A short bit of type, such as (AP). In this case, it would signify that the story is from the Associated Press.
An edition timed to come out in the early evening, as soon as stock closings can be published. (Could also be the city editor.)
Arrows, dots or squares that point out key topics of the story.
The name of the writer, appearing at the top of an article. Artists and photographers typically get credits. When the reporter’s name appears at the end, it often is preceded by a dash and is called a signer.
A late edition of the newspaper for which the presses are not stopped until the plates are ready. Those pages, then, are said to be “chasing” a running press. The longer it takes for them to get there, the more papers are missed.
cold type
Type that is set photographically on paper, an advancement from type that was set in hot lead.
column inch
One inch tall and one column wide. It is used to measure ads and articles.
copy boy
Obsolete term replaced in many papers with copy aide, these are men and women who keep the newsroom running by attending to various duties such as office machines, handling phones, assembling paperwork and driving around town to retrieve photos and other material.
copy desk
The desk where articles are edited, headlines and captions are written, newspaper style is enforced and deadlines are either made or missed.
Correct as is; lets copy editors know that something has been checked and needs no further checking. Usually, these letters are put just after the copy they refer to.
A caption. The term comes from the day when engravings or “cuts” were used to make the impression on the page.
The city or place designation at the beginning of a story. Some newspapers strictly enforce a rule that the dateline must say where the reporter was when the story was gathered. A foreign story gathered by phone at home, then, might run with no dateline.
Every paper has dozens in a day for the hundreds of parts that go into it. You might ask what the deadline is for the piece you’re working on, the deadline for the last type to be set or the time when the presses should start.
double truck
An ad or editorial project that covers two facing pages. If it prints across the gutter between the two pages, and if the pages are on the same sheet, rather than two adjacent sheets, it might be called a “true” double truck. This name comes from the days when the heavy forms for newspaper pages, largely filled with lead type, were rolled around the composing room floor on heavy carts called trucks. Two pages for one project meant a double truck.
The little white spaces on either side of the newspaper’s name on the front page. Some newspapers put weather or lottery information in them. (An expression sometimes heard in newsrooms, “Go stick it in your ear,” has nothing to do with this.)
The time when something can be released. News may be released early so that news outlets can be ready to publish or air it, but there may be a restriction on when it can be released to the public. Breaking an embargo — reporting information early — may cause sources to be less willing to release news.
first reference
The first time someone is mentioned in an article, and generally should have their full name.
The newspaper’s name on page one. Also called the nameplate.
Used as a noun or a verb (when it is done to balky government officials), it is the Freedom of Information Act.
The page number, newspaper name and date appearing in the corner of a page.
Full Time Equivalent; an accounting term that refers to staffing. A full-time employee is one FTE; a two-day-a-week employee is .4 FTEs. A newsroom may have a budget number of total FTEs that will be comprised of full- and part-time workers.
Short for general assignment. A G.A. is a reporter who does not have a beat, but who might be called on to write about anything.
A paragraph.
The space between two columns.
A .5-point rule.
hot type
From the days when type was set with molten lead, replaced with photographically produced cold type.
Head(line) to come. It means that the story has been edited and the headline will come later.
Not on the front page, as in, “we’ll run this story inside.”
The part of a story that continues on another page. Also called a break. The readers get directions from jump lines.
Type that is aligned evenly on the left and the right.
The start of a story, usually one to three paragraphs. Pronounced lede, and sometimes spelled that way, too.
Refers to the spacing between lines of type. The size of the type plus the space to the next line.
The start of a story. It is spelled this way to prevent confusion with lead, a metal that was used extensively in hot-type days, and a term that refers to the spacing of lines in a story.
A column of type. A two-column headline will likely have two legs of type under it.
Formed in a backward sort of way, a main bar is simply the main story, but stated this way to distinguish it from secondary sidebar stories. It’s a little like calling the city’s main library the main branch to distinguish it from the true, secondary branches.
This term is used to mean three things and can get confusing. It is used to mean the name on page one, for the box on the editorial page with the names of top editors, and for the box of names, phone numbers and addresses that appears in the first few pages of the newspaper
Outdated term for the library.
A mug shot or a small photo of someone. If someone says, “get me a mug,” don’t come back with coffee.
The newspaper’s name on page one, is also called the flag or masthead.
nut graf
The paragraph in a story that tells readers what the story is about and why they should care. Some papers have rules about how close this should be to the top of the story.
Opposite of the editorial page. May contain columns and guest viewpoints.
The act of making a page on a computer screen.
To summarize or rewrite in your own words a quote. Paraphrasing should not have quote marks.
A unit of measurement. There are six picas in an inch; each pica contains 12 points.
A unit of measurement equaling 1/72nd of an inch. For measuring typographical elements.
A certain number of reporters or one reporter who goes out and represents everyone else. For example, a high-interest court case, a presidential appearance or a concert may not have room for all the journalists who want to cover it, so the organizers may restrict coverage to a press pool. Pool coverage is usually shared with other media outlets.
Any printed copy before it goes to press. Usually made on a printer or photocopy machine.
rag right, rag left
Not justified. Uneven on either the right or the left.
Pronounced reefer, but spelled this way, it refers readers to inside or related stories. At some papers, these have been called whips.
The copy editors, collectively. Dates back to the days when the copy desk was a horseshoe-shaped piece of furniture with rim editors around the outside and slot editors on the inside, doling out and checking work.
A straight line on the page, usually expressed with its width as in, “a 1-point rule.” Don’t call them lines, except in hairline.
As a noun, a story no one else has; as a verb, to do it to the competition.
A story that accompanies the main story, detailing a particular angle or aspect, such as the hero’s early childhood.
single-copy sales
Newsstands, store sales. Anything not home delivered.
One of the people on the copy desk who checks over the copy editors’ work before committing it to type. Also used as a verb: “Hey, Terry, slot me on this, will you?”
An internal name for a story, usually just one word. Elex might be the slug for a story on school elections.
To kill something. At one time, when editors were finished with a piece of paper, such as a story, headline or page proof, they would slam it down on an upright nail on their desk. Then, they would know they were done with it, but could go back to it later if they needed to. Today, many newsroom computers have a “spike” key for killing a story or file.
spot story
A small story that is usually more specific, as opposed to a bigger story like a feature story.
A package that goes across the crease of two facing pages to combine them.
A term for promotional boxes that are usually above the nameplate of the newspaper. Also known as a teaser.
A proofreading symbol that means leave it the way it is.
A writer or photographer who is not a full-time employee, but who is paid by the job. The term comes from the days when a writer would get paid by the column inch and would measure his or her contribution by holding a string along the story to measure its length, knot it, measure the next column or story, and so on, reporting the final length for pay.
A story that goes all the way across the top of the page — or nearly so. Some people will call it a strip if it goes almost all the way across. Others will say it’s not a true strip if there is anything above it, but will grudgingly concede the point.
The newspaper’s book of rules and policies for handling copy. Can include everything from spelling of local streets to policy for handling profanities and juvenile crime victims.
Short for tabloid. Refers to any newspaper or section folded to that size.
A longer story that takes a step back from daily, breaking news stories to put a running story with frequent developments into context and perspective.
thumb corner
The upper, outside corner of pages. So-called because that’s where a reader might grab them to turn to the next page.
Shows what is in the inside of the paper or previews a story or series. Same as a promo but smaller.
Tells you to go to the next page where the article continues.
A short line of type, left at the top of a column. The worst: single words. Computerized typesetting makes them far more common than a fussy page makeup person would have tolerated. Some people use this term to refer to any short line at the end of a paragraph and trim stories deftly by eliminating just enough words to eliminate the widows.
Part of a newspaper’s circulation area. If the newspaper divides its circulation area into zones, advertisers may buy ads in just their local areas. Often, news coverage is zoned to complement zoned advertising.

Be Sociable, Share!
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment