Journalistic Jargon: Learning To Speak To A Reporter
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
The concept for this column was born almost 25 years ago in the Tribune in “QUIPS” (Queens In Politics), which I penned way back then. I reworked it 15 years ago. And now, a bit expanded and updated, I share this idea that has always been fun, and present it as a guidebook to a new Trib editor who is tackling his first edition of our 41-year-old paper. May this serve as the impetus to grow our journalistic skills, teach and improve the staff, and remember what community journalism is all about. May this help us all in our profession to seek the truth and serve as a sounding board reflecting the sense of the community and to advocate for the people we serve. May we continue to teach, challenge and learn as we have fun as practitioners of the world’s second oldest profession.
Every industry has a language of its own. Journalism is no exception. We share with you the true meaning of some of the words frequently bandied about the newsroom.
For some, this little adventure might be fun. For those in politics, learning how to talk to a reporter could be a first step to getting your name spelled correctly.
“According To Published Reports”: Another newspaper got the real story, so this is what they said.
Advertisements: Statements in the paper which are almost as accurate as the news reporting.
Allege: What people do when they don’t know for sure.
App: Short for application but in digital talk everything is cut shor.
Art: Graphics used to fill space because the story ran short. What you use to interest readers who don’t usually read.
Attribution: Naming your source. (i.e. Aunt Millie said). See source.
Beat: A reporter’s area of coverage or that which makes him/her tired.
Bold: An intense typeface used in headlines; also used to describe a type of reporter.
Breaking News: The pieces left over after you missed a hot story. (Broke: the condition of a reporter who missed a “breaking news story”).
Broadsheet: The New York Times size of newspaper — get your mind out of the gutter.
Briefs: Writing short because they’re tight.
Byline: The name of the reporter responsible for the mistakes.
Caption: The few words needed to describe a picture that’s worth less than a thousand.
Censorship: A prerogative exercisable only by editors.
Column: A journalist’s written viewpoint; stemming from the straight line he is unable to walk after being creative.
Confidential Source: A name a reporter won’t reveal until he reveals it.
Copy: The words printed by a newspaper which claims they are original.
Crop: To cut out part of a photo. From crap - the part cut out.
Cut: What you want to do to the editor who does it to your story.
Dateline: Printed before the first line of a story indicating the city in which the reporter covers the event and looks for companionship.
Deadline: When your story is due, and you know what happens if it’s late.
”Deep Throat”: The code words used to describe an anonymous person who provides a valuable service to a staff member.
Digital Media: The new electronic arm of the information industry which has caused white knuckle concern of the old arm.
Edit: n. A written opinion of the paper. v. To correct. Hence, “Edit Page”: the opinion page of the paper that is absolutely correct.
Exclusive: A label used to brag that you got a scoop.
Expose: Uncovering a scandal or what you hope the young female reporter does.
Facebook: Today’s first source for many people’s news.
Fact: That which, according to the paper, is most likely true.
Filler: What you use if you don’t have enough copy.
First Amendment: That which comes between the paycheck and the Bible in order of importance.
Follow-up Story: What you write if you missed the point the first time.
Free Press: What corrupt politicians don’t want for newspapers but do want from cleaners.
Freelancer: A non-staff writer who often is paid what his title implies.
Gate: Suffix added onto any word to sensationalize the story. Synonym - Scam.
Gossip Column: A place where fact, fiction and salesmanship meet.
Graphic Design: Making the paper look pretty because it’s easier than reporting well.
Hard News: Stories which are difficult to report accurately.
Headline: The bold-faced words atop an article used to attract attention. If it’s not catchy and accurate, your head is on the line.
Horoscope: Formerly, filler used on the non-news pages. Frequently, one of several national indicators used to predict economic trends.
Hunch: When a reporter plays it, some folks worry.
Hundred: The smallest amount that can be used to try to get a reporter not to play a hunch.
In-depth: An announcement by a paper that they took the time to be accurate on a particular story.
Integrity: That which comes after salary and scoops, in order of importance.
“In The Can”: An extra story, already prepared and waiting to be used. What you use if you miss the real story.
Jump: A story that is continued on another page, or what you do when the publisher is in the newsroom.
Kill: What you want to do to the editor who does it to your story.
Layout: the page design which is done late at night with an appropriate partner; derived from basketball’s lay-up – to score.
Lede: (leed) The catchy intro to a story written to give basic information and catch the reader’s attention. A come-on.
Libel: a written slanderous statement; if used, it’s liable to cost your job.
News: An acronym for North, East, West, South or the direction reporters head in when extra work is needed.
News Hole: What’s left after advertising is sold; or a nickname for the former long-time editor.
Obit: A comprehensive story of a person’s life that you didn’t print in time.
Objectivity: An antiquated philosophy that guided journalists in an earlier era.
”Off The Record”: ”You can tell me the story and I won’t mention your name; otherwise, I’ll make you look bad in print.”
”On The Record”: ”You better give me the story in your words or I’ll print them in mine.”
Paper: Used by journalists instead of “Newspaper” because they know the truth.
Pica: A unit of measurement used in printing, equal to 1/6th of an inch; it must have been derived from the measure used to pay journalists.
Point: A measurement of 1/72nd of an inch. Also, something often missed by reporters.
Publisher: The ultimate boss named for the place where you can often find him.
Pulitzer Prize: Once the highest honor bestowed upon journalists; more recently, a creative writing award.
“Putting The Paper To Bed”: What you have to do to the paper before you do to yourself or anyone else.
Refer: (reefer) the creative front-page referral to inside stories written while you’re high.
Scam: see “Gate”
Scandals: Reporters pursue them in between scams and scoops.
Scoop: beating the other papers to the story, or what you want more than one of.
Source: where a reporter gets his info; derived from grandma’s closely guarded secret marinara recipe (sauce).
Specs: the dimensions of the story space as determined by the editor who wears them.
Spot News: What Dick and Jane write about.
“Stop The Presses”: ”We made an error in a full page ad.”
Story: journalism - A written account of an event; to everyone else - a made up tale; usually somewhere in between.
Stringer: A part-time or freelance reporter who occasionally writes for the paper which strings him along.
Tabloid: The Tribune size of newspaper derived from the Hebraic tablets upon which Moses inscribed the words of God. Well, a couple of commandments are still left.
Thirty: The end of a written piece; likely first coined by some very young journalist who viewed 30 as being over the hill.
Twitter: What people who don’t like to read long pieces use to replace Facebook as a source for news.
Typeface: The style of print; or the nickname for the art director.
Typos: Editorial errors missed by the proofreaders and blamed on the typesetters.
Website: Where you get trapped giving away the news which has been gathered originally for print which is advertiser supported.
Wire Story: A story supplied by a news service because it’s cheaper than sending reporters.
Zoo: The newsroom.
If you have any of your own, please share them with me at: MSchenkler@gmail.com