Journalistic glossary

Journalistic glossary


Every sector has its own jargon and newspapers are no exception. The following is a list of words you may hear in news rooms and what they mean.

Advert – content in a newspaper which is paid for

Advertorial – content in a newspaper paid for by an advertiser that looks similar to the newspaper’s style.

Angle – The theme of a news story, some new fact the story hangs on. e.g. The angle of the pollution story is that if factories close Hong Kong will lose money.

Assignment – the story given to a reporter

Attribution – identifying the source of information in the story. 'Hong Kong is great,' said Joe Smith from Iowa, USA.

Backstory – the story behind the news

Banner – a headline which extends right across the page

Beat – the section of news a reporter covers, e.g. crime

Bias – when a story is worded in such a way as to cause the reader to have an opinion.

Breaking news – a story that is happening right now. The initial coverage of the story. e.g. Tomorrow we will break the story that Hong Kong is sinking.

Broadsheet – A big sized newspaper, like the main paper of the South China Morning Post

Budget – everything that goes into one edition, copy, artwork and photos

Byline – the reporter’s name on the story

Caption – the text under a photograph that tells about the picture.

Circulation – the the number of newspapers printed and distributed each day.

Colour – the text in a story which tells about the people or places involved.

Column – text on a news page is printed in columns, narrow arrangements which are read from top to bottom. e.g. Young Post pages usually have five columns

Columnist – someone who writes regularly for a publication, usually giving opnion

Confidential source – a source which is known to the reporter and editor but is not named in the story. The source’s identity will never be revealed, even in court.

Copy – the text of a story. eg Your copy is short = You didn’t write a long enough story.

Copy editor – a sub editor in America.

Copyright – the rights to publish information.

Correspondent – a reporter who works in another country for this newspaper

Cover – to get the facts and information regarding a story. e.g. Zoe will cover the dance competition on Sunday.

Crop – to cut out the unwanted bits in a photograph. News photos need to be carefully cropped to give a factual representation of the action.

Dateline – the line at the beginning of a story that tells you where it was written.

Deadline – the latest possible time something can happen. Usually it means the time by which copy must be submitted.

Deck – a line of headline.

Desk – A group of reporters and editors that deal with a certain section of the newspaper. e.g. Metro desk deals with the stories for the City section.

Display – the big advertisements and the department that sells them.

Dummy – a copy of a page before it is printed, that is checked by the chief sub editor or editor.

Ears – the spaces on the sides of the masthead

Edition – one printing of the newspaper e.g. second edition is more updated than first edition

Editor – a person in charge of a particular section

Editorial – a column written by the editor which gives opinion about the news.

Em – a printing measurement which is a square of the letter M in 12 point.

En – half an Em

Exclusive – a story no other paper has

Expose – a story that reveals something shocking.

Face – the style of letters used to print the words.

Feature – a story which is not news, usually longer than a news story, that may give background or provide entertainment.

Folio – the newspaper’s name and the date which appears at the top of each page.

Follow-up – a story which comes after a breaking story with more details and colour, or one that returns to a story to find out the progress of the issue

Four-colour – most presses print in four colours, but some print in six.

Graphic – a diagram or other artwork produced by graphic artists

Gutter – the space between columns of text, sometimes on opposing pages. e.g. a picture on a double page must run through the gutter.

Hard News – the news story containing only facts.

Headline – the big text at the top of the article

Hole – a problem of missing information or unanswered questions in the story.

Human Interest – a story about people, usually about their struggles and triumphs.

Inserts – advertising material that is not part of the main paper. It is printed separately, usually on different paper.

Illo – short for illustration, a drawn or painted picture that goes with a story Interview – when a reporter asks someone questions

Invasion of Privacy – when a reporter and newspaper reveal things about someone which should not be made public.

Inverted Pyramid – the shape of a news story, with the shortest, newest information at the top, with more detail and background coming in further down.

Jump – when a story goes from one page to another

Jumpline – the line that tells you which page you’ll find the rest of the story. e.g. (continued on page 5) or (continued from page 1)

Lede/lead – the first line of a story. It should be no more than 30 words long and capture the reader’s attention.

Morgue – the library where old newspapers are kept.

Kernel/nut – the summary statement of a feature story that lets everyone know what it’s about.

Kill – to stop a story or portion of a story from being printed

Layout – the design of the pages

Lead – the space between lines

Lead – a piece of information that leads to a story

Libel – publishing false information about someone that unjustly hurts their reputation.

Logo – the trademark of a company

Obit – short for obituary, a story published after someone has died telling about their life.

Off the record – when someone tells a reporter something they don’t want to appear in the paper, or they don’t want to be identified as the source of the information.

Offset – a way of printing where the plate does not directly come into contact with the paper, but the image is transferred to another surface which transfers it to the paper.

Op-ed Page – This is the page opposite the editorial page. It is used for opinion columns and letters to the editor

Orphan – a line at the top of the column which does not fill the whole column.

Pagination – the plan of where all the stories will go in the publication.

Pad – when you make a story longer by using extra words

Passive voice – A style of wording not suited to news.

Peg – a reason for writing a story “why now” “why this”

Plagiarism – when you copy someone else’s work and make it seem like your own.

Plate – An aluminium sheet which carries the image of the page through the ink and transfers it to paper

Press – A term to describe the media.

Press – The machine that prints the newspaper

Press-con – short for press conference, when officials call a number of journalists to hear a piece of news, or to answer their questions.

Press release – information distributed by officials or companies to a number of journalists at once.

Press run – the number of copies published before the press stops to change

Profile – a story that gives you an in depth look at someone. e.g. We will run a profile on David Beckham.

Proof – a page which is almost finished but printed out of a copier for a final check

Proof reader – the person who looks at the final proof of the page – also called a stone sub.

Put the paper to bed – to send the last page to the printer – e.g. “Let’s put this puppy to bed,” favourite expression of Young Post editor on Fridays.

Quotes – the words of people you interview.

Register – making sure the different colours on the page line up so the pictures are not blurry.

Review – a writer’s critical evaluation

Roll change – when the big rolls of paper on the press come to an end a new one is put in place. This is the time plates can be changed and pages corrected or changed.

Scoop – an exclusive break of a story before anyone else gets it printed.

Series – a number of articles which explore the same theme and are printed over a number of days.

Sidebar – a short story that goes with a bigger story

Slug – the name given to a story so that everyone knows which story is being referred to. eg The slug on today’s sports story is NBA12

Skybox – Words and pictures on the front page that encourage readers to look inside the newspaper

Source – Where a reporter gets their information

Splash – the big story of the day.

Sub – This is short for sub-editor, the person who checks the facts and grammar of the story and polishes the writing. The subs also cut the story to fit into a certain length and add the headlines, quotes, captions, subheadings.

Sub head – a smaller line of copy under the headline

Tabloid – a paper which is half the size of a broadsheet. A paper which goes after sensational news.

Thumbnail – a small picture used only half a column wide.

Two source rule – a rule used by investigative journalists which means they need to confirm a piece of information from two sources before reporting it.

Typo – A mistake made by hitting the wrong keys on the keyborad

Web press – a press where paper runs off rolls instead of single sheets

White Space – the space around pictures, headlines, advertisements and stories that has no copy in it. To see this, compare South China Morning Post to a Chinese language newspaper.

Widow – a single word at the bottom of the column.

Wire service – a service from news companies which delivers stories and pictures from all over the world to be printed in local newspapers.

Yellow Press – distorted or sensationalistic journalism


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