Category Archives: Journalism Jargon and Resources

Posts that add to one’s journalism vocabulary and stockpile of Internet resources.

Tighten and Lighten

15 Tips for Trimming Fat in News Stories

From Bob Baker’s Newsthinking.com, an excellent resource for journalists.

1. Test your quotes. If you can do a better job communicating in your own syntax, do it. We must fight against obligatory-sounding quotes.

2. Read your story aloud. If you have true courage, have someone read it aloud to you.

3. Check your sentences that precede a quote. You can often find redundancy. Kill these “echoes.”

4. Try to avoid passive voice.

5. Edit on a print-out, not the screen.

6. Read your print-out with the margin tightened to resemble the published column-width version.

7. Pretend you are a subscriber.

8. Use shorter words.

9. Try to avoid parenthetical sentences.

10. “Of” is a sentence-stretcher you can often lose.

11. Value periods over commas, which can create extraneous phrases.

12. Squeeze the “background” elements of your story.

13. Can you read your first paragraph with one breath?

14. Kill jargon.

15. Too much of the word “that” can slow down the story.

The Cliche Alphabet

This is an alphabetical account of some of journalism’s worst cliches. Popular but unnecessary, these terms and phrases are a thorn in my side. Ahem, I mean, they’re bad.

Armed Gunman

Bailout

Cautiously Optimistic

Downsizing

E-whatever: The other day, I got an e-mail message about protecting my e-commerce with some premium e-surance.

Flip-flop (as a verb)

Green: Also “Going Green” and “Greening your business.”

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Revived in our time of economic woe.

I-whatever: iListen to my iPod on my iHome

Jump on the Bandwagon

Knuckle Down

Level the Playing Field

Make Ends Meet: No one, especially single mothers, can seem to do it these days.

Negative Growth

Organic

Protecting Your Investment

Quality of Life: Politicians love this one.

Rolling Out the Red Carpet for _____.

Staycation: As opposed to “vacation” when gas prices are too high.

Thinking Outside the Box

Undisclosed Price: I’m tired of seeing this on the business page.

Victim: Everyone’s a victim!

Wall Street vs. Main Street

X for “ex”: Examples include Xtreme, Xtra, etc.  

Yes We Can!: Thank you, President Obama.

Zero Tolerance

Newspaper Journalism Glossary

This journalism dictionary is a work in progress. If you think of one I missed, leave a comment.

Advance – A story about a future event. Also called a preview.

Agate – Small type often used for statistical data on sports and stock pages.

All Caps – A word or sentence written in all capital letters.

Advertorial – An advertisement in the form of an editorial piece, usually labelled as an advert.

Angle – The approach or focus of a story. Also called the peg.

AP – The abbreviation for the Associated Press.

Assignment – A job given to a journalist by an editor.

Background – Information given to a reporter to explain more about the situation and details of a story. Or it’s the information in an article to give an ongoing issue context for readers who haven’t followed the story. Sometimes shortened to BG.

Back Bench – Senior journalists on a newspaper.

Banner – A type of headline stretching full width, usually at the top of a page. Also called a streamer.

Beat – The area or subject that a reporter regularly covers.

Bias – A position that is slanted; a story showing nonobjective reporting.

Blind Interview – An interview with an unnamed source.

Blog – An online commentary or diary often written by individuals about hobbies or areas of specialist interest. Also called a weblog.

Blogger – A person who writes a blog.

Blogosphere/Blogdom/Blogiverse/Blogmos/Blogostan – All things relating to blogs and blog communities.

Blurb – Brief introduction to the writer, usually following the headline.

Box – Material enclosed, either completely or partially, by a printed rule.

Breakout – An offset text box that gives the synopsis of the story, including key highlights of the story, or other information, such as a list of points that would not fit in the main article text.

Brief – A short story.

Broadsheet – The size of most dailies, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today. Folded in half, it’s a tabloid, or tab.

Bud Line – A story proposal that is placed on a newspaper budget. It includes a slug line, a description of the story, byline, story length, deadline, available art and other graphics, etc.

Budget – The various news departments’ proposals for what they want to put in the newspaper. It budgets space in the newspaper, not dollars.

Byline – A journalist’s name at the beginning of a story.

Caption – Text printed below a picture used to describe it. Also called a cutline.

Churnalism – Bad journalism; journalists that churn out rewrites of press releases.

Center of Visual Interest (CVI) – The prominent item on a page (usually a headline, picture or graphic.)

Circulation – Number of copies sold by newspapers or magazines.

Citizen Journalism – The reporting of news events by members of the public.

Closed Question – A simple yes/no question that does little to encourage an interviewee to open up.

Column – A regular feature often on a specific topic, written by the same person who is known as a columnist. Also the vertical sections of type, which may have varying widths.

Conflict of Interest – When a writer allows personal interests (friendship, family, business connections, etc.) to influence the outcome of the story.

Convergence – The term used to describe multimedia newsrooms producing news for different publishing platforms, such as in print, online video, online audio, etc.

Copy – Main text of a story.

Copy Desk – The desk where articles are edited, headlines and captions are written, and newspaper style is enforced.

Cover Story – Leading story used on the front cover of a magazine.

CQ – Correct as is; lets copy editors know that something has been checked and needs no further checking. Used often for oddly spelled names.

Credibility – Believability of a writer or publication. A reader’s trust in a writer or publication.

Crosshead – A few words used to break up large amounts of text, normally taken from the main text. Often used in interviews.

Cub – A trainee reporter. Also called a rookie or junior reporter.

Cut – To remove text.

Cutline – Text printed below a picture used to describe it. Also called a caption.

Cuttings – A journalist’s collection of published print work. Also called clips or portfolio.

Dateline – A line at the beginning of a story stating the location the story took place.

Deadline – The time at which a journalist must finish an assignment.

Death-knock – Calling at the house of a bereaved relative or friend when reporting on the death. Also called door-stepping.

Deck – Part of the headline which summarises the story. Also called deck copy or bank.

Defamation – Information that is written by one person which damages another person’s reputation.

Direct Quote – The exact reproduction of a verbatim quote in quote marks and correctly attributed.

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. Also called a spread.

Draft – The first version of an article before editing and submission to the editor.

Editor – Someone who prepares material for print or broadcast.

Editorialize – To write in an opinionated way; inserting the writer’s opinion into a news story that should be written objectively.

Embargo – 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.

Endnote – Text written at the end of an article stating the authors credentials.

Fact sheet – A page of significant information prepared by public relations people to help news media in covering a special event.

Feature – A longer, more in-depth article. An article of special interest with a quality other than its timeliness as main attraction.

Flash – Short news story on a new event.

Fluff – News that is not hard-hitting. The lighter news, or soft news.

Follow-up – An update on a previous story. Also called a folo.

Font – Typeface.

Freelancer – Someone who works alone, usually on a contract-to-contract basis.

Gatekeepers – People who determine what will be printed, broadcast, produced or consumed in the mass media. Gatekeeping involves filtering information and ideas for publication to the masses, from a reporter choosing which sources to include in a story to the editors who decide which stories to print and how much space or prominence to give them.
 
Graf – Paragraph.

Gutter – Narrow margin of white space in the center area in a magazine, newspaper or book, where two pages meet. Also the white space between text columns.

Hammerhead – A large headline of only one or two words, followed by a longer and smaller head underneath.

Hard Copy – A copy of an article or photo after it runs in the paper. A physical copy of the final newsprint.

Headline – The main title of the article.

House Style – A publication’s guide to style, spelling and use of grammar, designed to help journalists write and present in a consistent way for their target audience.

Inverted Pyramid – The structure of a news story that places the important facts at the beginning and less important facts and details at the end, enabling the editor to cut the bottom portion of the story if space is limited.

Investigative Journalism – A story that requires a great amount of research to come up with facts that might be hidden, buried, or obscured by people who have a vested interest in keeping those facts from being published

Jargon – Any overly obscure, technical, or bureaucratic words that would not be used in everyday language.

Journalist – Someone who writes, researches and reports news, or works on the production of a publication.

Jump or Jump Line – Line of type at the bottom of a column that directs the reader to somewhere else in the paper where the story is completed. Jumping stories allows more space for stories to begin on the front page.

Kerning – Horizontal space between two written characters.

Kicker – The first sentence or first few words of a story’s lead set in a font size larger than the body text of the story.

Kill – To cancel or delete a story.

Kill Fee – A reduced fee paid to a journalist for a story that is not used.

Layout – How the page is designed and formatted.

Leading – Vertical space between two lines of typed text.

Lead or Lede – The first sentence or first few sentences of a story.

Masthead – Main title section and name at the front of a publication; the banner across the front page that identifies the newspaper and the date of publication. Also the publication information on the editorial page. 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.

Monster or Monster Package – A front-page story and art package, usually with a large photo. Called a “monster” because it can take up much of the page. Monsters can also appear on the first page of inside sections, such as the Living section.

Morgue – Newsroom library of old clips and full newspapers. Has been replaced by an electronic archive system at many papers.

Mug or Mug Shot– A small photo of someone. A headshot.

Nameplate – The newspaper’s name on the front page. Also called the flag.

News Agency – Company that sells stories to newspapers or magazines.

Nut Graf – Paragraph containing the essential elements of a story.

Objectivity – An attempt to write a story without showing bias or injecting the writer’s opinion.

Off the Record – Information that must not be disclosed.

On the Record – Information given by a source that can be used in an article.

Op-ed – A feature, usually by a prominent journalist, presenting an opinionated story.

Orphan – First line of a paragraph appearing on the last line of a column of text. Normally avoided.

Package – One or more articles and graphics designed together on a page with a central theme. For example, a Halloween package might include a main story about community events, a short sidebar about Halloween safety tips, and several photos of trick-or-treaters.

Paginate – Designing or laying out a page on a computer screen.

Paraphrase – An indirect quote or summary of words.

Pica – A unit of measurement. There are six picas in an inch; each pica contains 12 points.

Pitch – Story idea sent to an editor by a reporter.

Plagiarism – Stealing the work of another person (both written words and intellectual property) and calling it your own.

Point Size – Size of the type face.

Pool – A certain number of reporters or one reporter who goes out and represents everyone else. For example, a presidential appearance may not have room for all the journalists who want to cover it, so the organizers may restrict coverage to a press pool.

Pork – Material held for later use, if needed.

Preview – A story about a future event. Also called an advance.

Profile – Feature story about a person; personality piece.

Proof – Copy of a laid-out page ready to be corrected.

Puff Piece – A news story with editorialised, complimentary statements.

Pulitzer Prize – American journalism awards. There are fourteen prizes for journalism. The prizes have been awarded by Columbia University since 1917.

Pull-out Quote – Selected interesting quote from a story that is set in larger text on the page to add visual interest to the page and draw attention to the quote.

QuarkXPress – Desktop publishing program.

Quote – Record of what a source or interviewee has said.

Rag Right and Rag Left – Text that is not justified; it is uneven on either the right or the left side of the column.

Reefer or Refer– Pronounced reefer. It refers readers from one story to a related story on a later page.

Reporter – Someone who writes and researches news stories.

Reporters Without Borders – An organization founded in 1985 that fights for press freedom around the world.

Retraction – A withdrawal of a previously-published story or fact.

Revision – A re-written or improved story, often with additional quotes or facts.

Rule – A line used to separate one story from another on a newspaper page.

Run – To publish a story.

Sacred Cow – News or promotional material on a subject that a publisher or editor demands be published, often for personal reasons.

Serif and Sans Serif – Plain font type with or without lines perpendicular to the ends of characters. Times New Roman type is a serif font, or with those lines. Arial is sans serif, or without lines.

Scoop – An exclusive or first-published story.

Screen – A shaded area of copy in a newspaper. A text box might have a slight grey screen behind it to make it stand out.

Sidebar– A column of copy and/or graphics which appears on the page to communicate information about the story or contents of the paper. May be supplemental information that couldn’t fit into the main text.

Skybox – A term for promotional boxes that are usually above the nameplate of the newspaper.  It could encourage the reader to read a particular story or a special section. Also called a teaser.

Slander – Similar to libel, but spoken instead of published.

Slug or Slug Line – One or two words that specifically identify a story; usually the name of the word document file. For example, a story about a city council meeting where property taxes were discussed might be slugged “CC Prop Tax.”

Soft News – Stories that are interesting but less important than hard news, focusing on people as well as facts and information.

Source – An individual who provides information for a story.

Spin – Slant of a press source.

Stet – Proofreader’s mark for “restore to condition before mark up.”

Stringer – 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.

Summary Lead – The traditional journalism tool used to start off most hard news stories. Summarizes the event and answers the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Subhead – A smaller one-line headline for a story.

Tabloid – Smaller print newspaper size. Also refers to “supermarket” tabloids that stress dramatic stories, often about sensational subjects.

Teaser – A term for promotional boxes, words and/or pictures that are usually above the nameplate of the newspaper. It could encourage the reader to read a particular story or a special section. Also called a skybox.

Tie in – Placing the facts of a new story within the context of past events. Also known as a tie back.

Tip – A lead or piece of new information about a new story.

Widow – The last line of a paragraph that appears alone at the top of the next column.

Wire or Wire Service – A source of information for journalists. The wire itself is an up-to-the-minute source of stories for newspapers. Wire services, such as the Associated Press, Bloomberg, etc., place reporters all over the world to supply international news for newspapers without the means to send reporters overseas.