Friday, August 19, 2016

Newsroom lingo

For a press veteran like me, one of the pleasures of reading John Darnton's newspaper-based murder mystery Black & White and Dead All Over is the frequent use of newspaper lingo. As with most enterprises, newspapers have their own terminology, words that mean something to those who work there that they don't mean to most other people. Here are a few of those terms I found in Darnton's novel:

spike - When I started in newspapers back in the Sixties, sharp spikes could be found point up on editors' desks in any newsroom. They are rare, if they exist at all, now that stories are written and edited on computers, not paper. Spike, the noun, became spike, the verb, in newspaper parlance. It refers to when an editor decides not to run a story. One of these spikes is found in the body of the first victim in the novel. An editor is literally spiked himself.

desk - Most people who work in a newsroom have a desk, but the desk commonly refers to the copy desk, or the area where the copy editors do their work.

reefer - This has nothing to do with drugs when used in a newsroom. Rather it is the term for a teaser on a cover page that refers to an inside story.

lede - This is the term for the first paragraph of a story. So why isn't it spelled lead? Well, lead means something else in the newspaper business. It refers to the space between lines. Decades ago, type was made out of lead, and pressmen would put thin strips of lead to stretch out a story to fit the space available. That was called leading.

deadline - Well. everybody knows what a deadline is. We all have them from an early age. But deadlines are taken very seriously in the newspaper business. There are deadlines for reporters to get their stories to editors, deadlines for editors to the production department, deadlines for the presses to start and deadlines to get the newspapers into the hands of carriers. Advertising departments have their own deadlines. Missed deadlines cost money, so the pressure to meet those deadlines can be intense.

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