A glossary of journalism terms

February 7, 2008


Flickr: Thomas Hawk
Found while trawling the web: a five page (!) glossary of newspaper terms.
Many of these are amusingly archaic (does anyone need to know “cablese” anymore?) but there will be times when you, a reporter, will be asked to write a “hed” and “deck” for your 10-“inch” story–or to go to the “morgue,” or to rewrite your “lede,” or to stay until the day’s paper is “put to bed.” And I don’t know what they teach you in big-name J-schools, but where I went to school, we weren’t taught this in a class. (Actual quote from a teacher, reading from a handout: “Lede…? What’s that?”)

Many of these terms are artifacts from the green-eyeshade era. In fact, maybe nobody really needs to know what a lede is (it’s the beginning of your story, also written using the more traditional spelling lead, but spelled differently to prevent confusion with lead, the metal that made up the letters that were rearranged on a plate and put into the printing press to print the newspaper–no lead, no need for lede.) I’ve worked places that asked for 500 words, rather than 15 inches. I’ve also worked places that assumed I knew what all these terms meant (you can imagine my terror when, as a complete newbie, I was told to “keep [my] budget up to date.” What? I’m not an accountant!)

But it can’t hurt to be prepared.

Extra credit: Here’s a Palo Alto Times piece that describes the words used by the printers themselves–which didn’t exactly overlap with what reporters and editors used at the time. Wonderful words that just roll off the tongue: quoin, hellbox, chase, turtle.

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