broadsideblog

Deep Dives, Heaves And TickTocks: A Journo’s Lexicon

In business, journalism, Media, work on February 4, 2011 at 1:42 pm
Fortune December 1941 issue

Image via Wikipedia

It was once called reporting, the idea of spending days, weeks or maybe even months researching a story in depth. It didn’t mean a quick Google search and a few emails.

It always involved the acronym GOYA — Get Off Your Ass! — as in, yes you actually have to leave the newsroom and the building.

But today such a story — like this recent, excellent one in Fortune about the collapse of the Deepwater Horizon — is called a “deep dive”.

Having been a print journalist for a few decades, one of the things I enjoy is our own little lexicon, the shorthand many of us use as we roam from newspaper to magazine to television to radio to blogging. Just as doctors have their words (GOMER = Get Out Of My Emergency Room), we too have a vocabulary of our own.

My sweetie, a career photographer and now a photo editor for The New York Times, speaks this language as well. We can have conversations that might be pretty unintelligible to a non-journo!

For your amusement:

Lede The opening paragraph of a story

Kicker The final paragraph of a story

Nut Graf The central argument for why this story matters

TickTock A recounting of how a major story unfolded

Deck In magazines, the short abstract that tells you what the piece will be about

Hed The headline

Coverlines The teasers that are meant to make you pick up a magazine: “Ten Days To Thinner Thighs!”

Masthead The listing of the publication’s senior staff; sometimes all of them

Above the fold Where the most important stories land in a newspaper, above where it’s folded in half in a broadsheet

Broadsheet A newspaper that unfolds, like The New York Times

Tabloid A smaller paper like the New York Post; tabs are usually more downmarket in tone and content than broadhseets

Berliner A paper whose dimensions lie between a broadsheet and tabloid, like Le Monde

The wood The entire front page of a tabloid, given to the biggest stories

Agate The tiny credit at the edge of a photograph naming the photographer and/or agency

The budget The daily list of every story planned for the day’s paper, which may change as the news does, delineating how much space each will get

Dress page The front page of a section

Byline The reporter’s name…i.e. By….

Dateline The location from which the story was filed (confusing, no?)

Curtain-raiser A story that leads into an event and previews it

Puff piece An uncritical story

Hatchet job The opposite of a puff piece!

TK Short for “to come” — I don’t have that information yet but will fill it in later

Phoner A phone interview

Presser A press conference

Flack A public relations representative

Hack/Hackette In the U.K., a journalist, male or female

Sub-editor In the U.K., a copy editor who fixes errors and grammar after the story is written by the   reporter

Bulldog The earliest edition of a daily paper, which may have five editions a day

Slug What a story is named, in one word or two, as it moves through the news system

Heave A story that goes on and on and on and on…

Thumbsucker Often, a Time cover story, like “Does God Exist”

FOB In magazines, the front of the book, where smaller items run

The well In magazines, the main part of the publication, where longer features run

What’s some of the jargon your profession or industry uses?



  1. This is such an interesting post, bsb. I have heard, and worked with, some of this jargon, but not being a journalist I am not familiar with it all. Thanks for sharing it.
    Sunshine xx

  2. In the “Sub Editor” definition did you purposely leave taht extra space in? It is driving me crazy, which points out that, yes, I am a former editor. I loved this list.

  3. nfrc, glad you enjoyed it! I copy edit everything, all the time. It becomes a habit.

  4. This is a great list. Very neat insight to the craft.

    I work in senior housing and we also have a sack full of jargon; though I can’t think of any single word with definitions unique to our trade alone. Mostly we have a lot of acronyms, especially on the skilled nursing side of things, and the jargon that comes under the thumb of heavy government oversight. To list a few: CCRC, SNF, AFL, RCF, CCAC-CARF, SDPS, MDS, CMS.

    Also, if any of you editors get bored, head on over to my blog and feel free to set me straight!

  5. @ Eric, Ah the memories of having to fill out the MDS and having the nurse in charge make me ‘fix’ my errors. Hated those things.

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