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The media, like any industry, has its own language and specialist words which practitioners and users may need to know. The following glossary contains more than 500 definitions of terms about journalism and the media – including new media – making it one of the biggest, most extensive journalism glossaries in English available online. It was first published in The News Manual.

Spelling and punctuation of terms occasionally vary. We usually give the most common form but where this is unclear we give alternatives. We also give prominence to terms based on Commonwealth practices, with others – such as those used in the US – also given where appropriate. 

No glossary is ever complete. This one will grow and change along with the media. If there are terms missing or incorrectly defined, please let us know via the Comments box at the bottom of the page. 

AAP: Australian Associated Press, an industry-owned, Australian-based agency supplying news for a fee to the media.

active proceedings (sub judice): Legal proceedings are said to be active – with constraints on reporting, such as contempt laws – when a person has been arrested or charged, or a warrant or summons has been issued.

ABC: (1) Audit Bureau of Circulations, an industry-owned company which audits (and verifies) print media circulation figures. The ABCe (Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic) audits traffic figures for online publications. Also: (2) Australian Broadcasting Corporation, (3) the American Broadcasting Company, (4) the Asahi Broadcasting Corporation (Japan) and (5) the Associated Broadcasting Company (Philippines).

actuality: In radio, the sound of something actually happening, people speaking etc. Can also mean specifically audio material recorded out of the studio on location, either voices or other sounds such as ambient noise. Sometimes called a sound bite. In television sometimes called sync.

ad: Short for advertisement.

add: Additional copy, to be added to a story already written.

ad-lib: Unscripted talking, usually by a broadcaster. From the Latin ad libitum ‘at one’s pleasure’.

advance: (1) A story looking ahead to a future event. (2) To bring a story forward in a bulletin or earlier in a newspaper. (3) An up-front payment for commissioned work, such as a longer article or a book.

advertorial: An advertisement written in the style of a news item or feature, often provided by the publisher to complement adverts sold on that page. Ethically, advertorials should be clearly identified as such.

advocacy journalism: A type of journalism in which journalists openly and intentionally takes sides on issues and express their opinions in reporting. It attempts to be factually based and is not to be confused with badly-practised objective journalism or propaganda.

all caps: A printing instruction to set a word or sentence using all capital letters.

ambiance or ambient sound: The background sound in a place where a recording is made, e.g. traffic in a street interview. See also atmos.

analogue television and analogue radio: The original method of transmitting television or radio signals using radio waves, increasingly being replaced by higher quality digital broadcasting (television and radio), transmitted in a digital data stream.

anchor: A person who presents a news bulletin from a television studio, usually on a regular basis. See also newsreader and presenter.

angle: Short for news angle, it is that aspect of a story which a journalist chooses to highlight and develop. Usually the most newsworthy of its key points. Also called hook or peg.

AP: Associated Press, the world’s largest independent news agency supplying news services for a fee to media around the world.

AP Stylebook: Associated Press Stylebook, a standard reference source for American journalists on word usage and spelling, including names in the news.

assignment: A job given to a journalist by an editorial supervisor, such as a news editor.

atmos: Short for atmosphere, this is background noise recorded on location. In television it is sometimes also called actuality. Sometimes called ambient sound.

attribute: To identify who said something, either as a quote or as reported speech. Attribution is important to maintain credibility.

audit: An independent assessment of the accuracy of newspaper sales and circulation figures, especially so advertisers can decide where to place their business. See ABC above.

Autocue: A system of lenses, mirrors and angled glass in front of a studio television camera lens which displays a newsreader’s script as a scrolling image so they can read it without looking down at their script. Also known as a Teleprompter.


back announcement: In broadcasting, when the presenter gives viewers or listeners brief information about something they have just watched or heard, for example the name of the reporter or of the piece of music which was just played.

back bench: American term for senior production journalists on a newspaper.

background: (1) Information which is not part of the news event but which helps to explain more about the situation and the story. (2) Another name, usually US, for off-the-record. A backgrounder is the story written.

balance: A basic journalism principle of giving both sides of an argument in a fair way so readers or listeners can make up their own mind.

bandwidth: Quantity of data that can be transferred along cables or through wireless connections, including transmission or the Internet. Measured in bits per second (digital) or hertz (analogue).

banner: A headline stretching across the width of a page, usually at the top. Also called a streamer.

BARB: Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, which compiles television ratings (viewer) statistics in the United Kingdom.

BBC: British Broadcasting Corporation, Britain’s national broadcaster.

beat: (US) A specialist area of journalism that a reporter regularly covers, such as police or health. See also round.

bidirectional mic: A microphone which picks up sound from two directions, front and rear. Compare with omnidirectional and unidirectional microphones.

bill: Short for ‘newspaper billboard‘. A large sheet of paper on a board placed where newspapers or magazines are sold, with eye-catching headline text or graphics promoting a story in that edition.

blind interview: A published interview where the interviewee is not named, e.g. ‘a senior official’, sometimes called non-attributable. See also off-the-record. Also, to conduct an interview not knowing the subject matter.

blob: A bullet point in type , used in text layout to list points or to make a separate point at the end of a story.

blockline: A caption for a photograph.

blog: Short for web log, an online commentary or diary often written by individuals about their specialist interests, hobbies, family etc.

blogger: A person who writes a blog. They can be professional commentators or amateur Internet users.

blogosphere: Collective name for the medium of bloggers.

blooper: See out-take below.

blurb: Brief information about the writer, usually either at the top or bottom of the article.

body type: The style of newspaper type used in the body of a story, not in headlines, where it is called display type.

box:  (1) The solid frame put around a print story to give it prominence. (2) The short article inside the box frame, often associated with some aspect of a major story on the same page. Also called a breakout. See also sidebar.

box brackets: See square brackets.

break: (1) A story that is first published while the event is still happening. Sometimes called breaking news. (2) A short news bulletin which intrrupts a radio or television program to bring the latest news. See news break.

breakout: See box above.

bridge: Music or sound effects used to link one item to the next.

broadcast: Transmission to a large number of people by radio or television.

broadsheet: A large format newspaper, usually measuring at least 56 cm (22 inches) long. Also used to describe more serious, less sensational styles of newspaper journalism. Compare with tabloid.

bulletin: A organised collection of news stories broadcast on radio or television at a regular time. Can also include elements such as sports reports, stock market information, weather reports etc. In US, more commonly called a newscast.

bump: To move the position of a story, either up or down the scale of priority or position in a bulletin.

byline: The writer’s name, printed at the beginning or end of an article.


cable television: A TV service delivered into the home through a cable, usually for a fee. A form  of pay TV. Compare with terrestrial television and satellite television.

call-out: See pull-out quote.

cans: Headset or headphones.

cap: Short for capital letter. Also known as upper case.

caption: In print, short pieces of text placed below or beside pictures to describe them and identify the photographers and/or owners. Also called a cutline. In television, information superimposed over a picture, usually at the top or bottom of the screen, describing what is being shown. Often used to name and describe the person speaking.

chief reporter: The most senior reporter in a newsroom. In larger newsrooms, may be called a news editor.

chief of staff: A senior journalist in a newsroom who assigns stories to reporters and organises and monitors how they do their work. Often second-in-command to a news editor.

chief sub: Short for chief sub-editor. The person in charge of sub-editors, who assigns work to down-table subs.

chroma key: A process by which a person is filmed in front of a blank screen, onto which is then added still or moving pictures, often to make it appear they are at the scene. Also called greenscreen, bluescreen or Colour Separation Overlay (CSO).

churnalism:  Journalism that churns out rewrites of media releases.

circulation:  Number of copies sold by newspapers and magazines. See ABC, The Audit Bureau of Circulations above.

citizen journalism: Journalism outside the established media, usually by ordinary citizens without professional training or organisational experience. Compare to professional journalists. Citizen journalism is commonly practised through blogs and social networking web sites and not requiring the large resources of media organisations. Also called participatory journalism and networked journalism.

classified ads: Small newspaper advertisements usually paid for by individuals or small businesses and grouped under different classifications, e.g. houses, cars etc.

clip: (1) A single graphic or short excerpt of video, often used on Web pages. (2) A cutting of a newspaper story.

clippings: Also known as clips or cuttings. Saved copies of published articles, traditionally cut or clipped from the newspaper or magazine itself. Often kept in a clippings library or cuttings library.

closed captions: See subtitles below.

closed question: A question which can be answered with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Contrast with open questions, which require longer, more involved answers. ‘Can you tell me?’ is a closed question. ‘What can you tell me?’ is an open question.

colour: Extra details in a story which help the reader or listener get a fuller picture of what has happened or what a person is like.

column: (1) In typography, a column is a vertical block of text on a page, separated by margins and/or rules. (2) A regular feature often on a specific topic, written by a person known as a columnist.

column centimetre or column inch: A measurement of text based on the length of a single standard column of type in a specific newspaper or magazine. Also called a single column centimetre (SCCM).

commentator: A broadcaster who is a specialist in a specific area, e.g. cricket or politics, who describes events or games as they are happening or who comments on recent events.

commercial broadcasting: Television or radio networks funded wholly or mainly from advertising. Commercial broadcasters are usually owned by individuals or by companies answerable to shareholders. Compare with public broadcasting.

commercials: Paid for advertisements on television. Radio usually calls these ‘ads’.

compositor: See typesetter.

conflict of interest: When a journalist allows something with which he or she has a personal stake to interfere with their duty to be fair and objective in covering a story. For example, having shares in a company could make a finance reporter say uncritically good things to boost that company. Conflicts of interest can be real or perceived. Even perceived conflicts of interest should be declared openly.

contact: A person a reporter will visit or telephone (i.e. ‘contact’) for information on a topic they are researching. Contacts are usually sources journalists keep in touch with and approach for information on a regular basis.

contacts book: A book which lists people a journalist knows may be useful, together with their telephone numbers, email addresses, fax numbers, addresses, or whatever other information is needed to contact them.

contempt of court: Disregarding a court’s orders or in any way interfering with the way the court does its job.

content management system (CMS): A program for creating, editing and publishing content such as text, images, audio files and videos on Web sites.

continuity: Announcements between radio or television programs, often back announcing the previous program or looking forward to forthcoming programs.

convergence: The bringing together of different media technologies such as radio, print, video and the Internet so they work together to improve communications. For example, playing video reports on Web pages or print journalists recording interviews for broadcast online.

copy:  Written material for publication. In broadcasting also called a script.

copy editor: A person on a newspaper or magazine who corrects or edits copy written by a reporter, writes headlines and places the story on a page. The copy editor ensures the text flows, makes sense, is fair and accurate, and poses no legal problems. Also called a sub-editor.

copyreader: A person who checks typeset proofs and/or computer printouts to detect errors such as spelling mistakes and bad punctuation before the final printing of a publication. Also called a proof reader.

copy taster: A senior sub-editor who looks at incoming copy and decides what will be used.

copywriting: Writing the text for advertisements.

correspondent: A journalist who writes from a position of expertise, either in a subject matter or geographical area, e.g. arts correspondent or European correspondent.

cover line (or coverline): A caption on a magazine cover.

cover story: The most important story featured on the front cover of a magazine, often by an illustration.

crawl: Type moving across the top or bottom of a television screen.  Used by news stations to show the main headlines of the moment, stock exchange prices, the weather or other useful current information.

credit line: Text next to or following a story or picture acknowledging its source.

crop: To cut unwanted portions from a photograph for publication.

cross fade: To move from one audio or video source to another, by fading down the first while fading up the second.

crosshead: A word or phrase in larger type used to break up long columns of text. Crossheads often use a fragment of a strong quote from later in the article.

cross promotion: To use one outlet of a media company to promote something in another outlet. For example, to promote a magazine story on a radio station owned by the same company.

cross talk: Interference from one sound source breaking into another.

cub: Old-fashioned term for a trainee journalist. Also known as a rookie.

cue: (1) To prepare a piece of audio or video so that it starts at the beginning at the press of a button. (2) A signal in a studio that an item is about to start or end.

cue sheet: A radio script containing the introduction to a report, details about any inserts, any back announcements and durations of segments.

curtain raiser: Story written before a predicted event, setting the scene for when it happens. Often used at the start of an election campaign, sporting competition or season etc.

cut: (1) To remove text from an article or whole stories or to reduce the length of a program item. (2) Another word for a grab or separate segments of audio in a sequence, e.g. Cut 1, Cut 2 etc. (3) Short for ‘cutting’, see clipping above.

cut-away or cutaway: A technique in television editing to break up a lengthy shot on one subject, to hide a join where footage has been cut or to make a transition between two scenes. In long interviews, the camera may ‘cut away’ to a shot of the interviewer (See noddy) then return to the interviewee.

cutline: See caption above.

cuttings: See clippings above.

cuttings job: An article written using mainly material from other articles, with little or no original input by the writer. A shoddy or lazy form of journalism.

cyber-journalist: A journalist working on the Internet.


DAB: See digital broadcasting.

dateline: A line in contrasting type at the top of a story stating the city and/or country from which the story was filed. Used mostly with foreign stories, with the reporter’s byline. Rarely also contains the date of filing.

dB: Short for decibel. Unit of measurement of loudness of sound.

dead air: An extended unwanted silence on radio, often caused by technical or operating errors.

deadline: The time the editor or producer sets by which the reporter must submit a finished story.

death-knock: An assignment in which a reporter calls at the home of a bereaved relative or friend when gathering information about a death. Also known as door-stepping.

deck: (1) The number of rows in a headline. (2) A sub head(line) below the main headline, describing a key part of the story. See also sub head.

defamation: To say something bad about a person which does them harm. Also called libel and slander.

delay: Equipment in a radio studio which stores seven seconds of program in memory before sending it to the transmitter. Delay is used during phone-ins and talkback programs so if a caller says something that should not go on air (e.g. defamatory comments), the presenter can press a dump button which effectively deletes the preceding seven seconds and returns the program to real time transmission.

delayed intro: See drop intro.

desktop publishing: Using a personal computer and page layout software to create documents.

diary: (1) A large book or application on a newsroom computer system into which journalists put information about forthcoming events which might make a story. (2) A regular newspaper column of gossip or short human interest stories.

digital broadcasting: An advanced system of broadcasting radio (DAB or DRB) or television (DTV) in digital pulses rather than waves and which gives improved quality and/or more channels of content. There are currently two quality levels in television, standard definition (SDTV) and high definition (HDTV).

dinkus: A small drawing or symbol used to decorate a page, break up a block of type or identify a regular feature in a newspaper.

direct quote: The exact words used by a person, written within quotation marks and usually attributed to them.

director: In TV news, the director is usually a studio director, in charge technically of getting the bulletin to air. The editorial decisions are made by a producer.

display type: A size of newspaper type larger than that used for the main body of a story, usually in headlines, advertisements etc.

digital radio broadcasting (DRB): Also called digital audio broadcasting (DAB), a method of transmitting radio signals in data streams giving a much higher quality than the old analogue system and allowing more programming channels within the same amount of spectrum. Special radio receivers are required.

digital television (DTV): The modern method of transmitting sound and images in a data stream. DTV is higher quality than the old analogue TV. High definition digital TV (HDTV) is higher quality still. Special television sets are required to receive and display it.

documentary: Sometimes shortened to ‘doco’. A longer radio or television report of half-an-hour or longer, usually explaining and analysing a single issue using multiple elements, multiple interviews and other audio and images.

donut: A television interview in which the studio presenter hands over to a journalist on location who interviews guests before handing back to the presenter in the studio. Term used mainly by the BBC. See also two-way.

door-stepping: To turn up at a person’s home or place of work without warning or prior arrangement to get an interview. Door-stepping implies the person may be reluctant to speak and may be confronting. Some broadcasters also use the term for an unheralded phone interview. See also death-knock.

double-ender: An interview between a presenter in the studio and guest somewhere else.

double-spread: Two facing pages of a newspaper or magazine across which stories, pictures, adverts and other components are spread as if they were one page.

draft: The first version of an article before submission to an editor.

double-page spread (DPS): Two facing pages in a newspaper or magazine that are designed as one unit of interrelated articles. Also called a spread.

downtable sub: A sub-editor who works under the direction of more senior sub-editors, preparing copy for publication or broadcast.

DRB: See digital broadcasting.

drop intro: Also called a delayed intro. A style of intro writing in which the main key point is not mentioned until the second or third sentence. Used for effect, often in humorous stories.

drop out: To lose audio or video signal.

dub: To re-record sound and/or vision onto another tape. See also over-dub.

dummy: See layout below.

dump: To drop a caller during a phone-in or talkback program. See delay above.


edit: To prepare raw material – such as text or recorded vision – for publication or broadcast, checking aspects such as accuracy, spelling, grammar, style, clarity etc. See also sub-editor.

edition: A newspaper or magazine printed in a single run of the presses. It may be changed for different purposes, e.g. country edition, city edition, final edition etc.

editor: (1) The person – usually a journalist – in charge of the editorial content and direction of a newspaper, magazine or other news outlet. (2) A person in charge of a special section of news output, e.g. sports editor, political editor etc. (3) Someone who prepares material for print or broadcast. See also news editor.

editorial: (1) An article written by, or on behalf of, an editor, giving the news organisation’s opinion on an issue. (2) An adjective describing issues relating to news content as opposed to advertising or other non-news aspects of a newspaper or magazine.

editorial cartoon: A cartoon which appears on the editorial page, commenting on a current controversy.

editorial conference: A meeting of senior editorial managers and staff to plan the day’s coverage.

editorialise: A derogatory description for writing in an opinionated manner.

editorial page: A page where the newspaper or magazine’s editorial (1) is printed, often with letters to the editor. Also called an opinion page.

edit suite: A small room equipped with specialist television or radio editing equipment where pre-recorded material can be processed into a final news report, feature or documentary.

effects: Shortened to FX. Sound effects added to vision or natural sound during the editing process on radio or TV.

EFP, EJ and ENG:  Electronic field production, electronic journalism and electronic news gathering. Television news gathering which replaced film couriered back to the newsroom with electronic methods such as video and microwave links to the studio.

embargo: Limitation on the earliest time when a news item given to a journalist can be published or broadcast, usually a date.

endnote: A paragraph in a different type after the end of an article giving  additional information about the writer or – the case of a review – the publication or performance details.

ENG: See EFP above.

exclusive: Popularly called a ‘scoop’. An important or significant story which no other news outlet has.

executive producer (EP): The editorial person in charge of a production unit or a series of programs, having control over content, production and, in many cases, staff. See also producer.

ezine: (Pronounced e-zeen). An Internet magazine.


face: See typeface below.

fact: Something which is true and can be proved to be true by objective methods. Compare with opinion.

fade: In broadcasting, to gradually change the intensity of a sound or picture. Fade-up or fade-in increases the intensity (e.g. volume of a sound or brightness and clarity of a picture), fade-down or fade-out decreases it.

fairness: In journalism, fairness requires not favouring one viewpoint over another in collecting and presenting news and opinion. Different viewpoints are presented accurately, even those with which the journalist personally disagrees.

feature: A longer article or radio story, usually in greater depth and complexity than a simple news item. Features may grow from a current news event or simply be examining a timeless issue. Features which are not strongly connected to hard news events are often called soft features. In radio, features usually have a mixture of elements, including the reporter’s voice, interviews and other sounds. Longer features may be called documentaries.

feed: The transfer of information from a source to a recipient, whether raw information from reporter to studio or finished reports fed to a transmitter or another station for broadcast.

feedback: An unwanted noise created when the output of an audio speaker feeds back into a microphone in the same system and is amplified as this happens in an increasing loop, resulting in a high-pitched squeal. Also called howl-round.

file: To send a report from a reporter on location to the newsroom or studio.

file footage: Segments of video or film footage kept in tape libraries – or on newsroom computer archives – to illustrate either (1) general events such as crowds shopping or aeroplanes taxiing at airports or (2) past events used in current stories. See also stock footage.

filler: (1) A short news item or advertisements, usually timeless, used to fill small spaces in a newspaper or bulletin. (2) Also called fill-in, a short piece of mujsic to fill a gap between program elements.

five Ws and H: See WWWWW and H below.

flash: (1) A brief news story which interrupts normal radio or television programming, usually to tell of a major breaking event. (2) A short message from a news agency alerting subscribers to a major breaking event, about which they will shortly provide more detailed coverage. See also snap.

flatplan:  Traditionally a sheet of paper showing the proposed layout of items such as stories and adverts on a newspaper or magazine page or double spread. Increasingly, these are laid out on computer screens using special flatplan software.

float: Pictures or vision shown on television while the presenter is talking or interviewing a guest. They ‘float’ over the presenter’s voice to illustrate aspects of what the presenter or guest is talking about. Sometimes called out of vision (OOV) or underlay.

flub: See out-take below.

flush: See unjustified text.

Freedom of Information (FOI): Laws which require a government body to release information to the public on request or to state why requested information will not be released.

follow-up:  A story which is written to report new or more detailed information on a story which has already been published or broadcast.

font: In  printing, a set of characters – letters, numbers and punctuation marks – of a single size and style of a particular typeface.

footage: (1) Video or film recordings, originally on tape and measured in feet. See also stock footage. (2) Raw, unedited film or video materials.

freelance journalist (freelancer): Usually a reporter or editor not formally employed by any media organisation, instead working on projects under contract or paid individual amounts for work accepted for publication or broadcast. See also lineage.

freesheet: A usually cheaper publication that is circulated free readers, making its revenue from advertising or from grants of gifts.

free-to-air: Television broadcast on public spectrum which is free to viewers. It is usually funded by taxpayers (public broadcasting) or advertising (commercial broadcasting). Occasionally also used to describe normal radio broadcasts which are free to listeners with conventional radio receivers. Compare with pay TV or subscription radio.

Freeview: A free-to-air digital television partnership, (1) in Britain between the BBC, BSkyB and Crown Castle and (2) in Australia between commercial and public broadcasters.

FX: See effects.


get: A very good or exclusive interview.

gobbledygook: Language which sounds as if it makes sense but is either meaningless or confusing to the listener or reader. An extreme form of jargon.

grab: A short piece of recorded sound, usually taken from a longer interview and used in a news item.

graphic: An illustration in a newspaper, magazine or web page explaining part of a story in a visual way, e.g. troop movements in a battle or a calendar of a sequence of events.

graphics: Often shortened to Gfx, words, diagrams or other illustrations that appear on the television screen.

graf: Mainly US, short for a paragraph of text, which may also be known as a par.

Gregg: A system of shorthand used mainly in the US and associated countries.

grip and grin:  Mainly US, derogatory term for photographs where people shake (grip) hands and smile (grin) at the camera, often at ceremonies to open facilities or receive gifts.

guerrilla marketing: A relatively low cost marketing technique which uses surprise or shock to promote a product or service, especially one which interrupts a consumer to pay special attention. Also used to describe unusual methods which actually do not look like advertising to the consumer.

gutter: A vertical margin of white space where two pages meet

gutter journalism: A derogatory term for media which use sensational reporting without concern for the harm it will do individuals.


hard copy: Something printed on paper. Compare with soft copy, where words or pictures  exist in computerised form as data.

hard news: Immediate and factual accounts of important events or developments. Compare with soft news.

hard out: In broadcasting, a sudden and inflexible ending of material in a bulletin, usually determined by a fixed-length pre-recorded segment or a pre-programmed computer event.

headline or head: A word or short phrase in large type at the top of an article designed to either summarise the news or grab the reader’s attention and make them want to read it. In broadcasting, headlines are short summaries of a few important stories that will follow in full in the bulletin. Closing headlines come at the end of a bulletin.

HDTV: See digital TV above.

hits:  A popular but misleading method of counting viewing of websites. Hits counts the number of downloads of every element of a web page, not the page as a whole. A page with 30 text boxes, images, menus and other graphics will count as 30 hits. Page views are a more reliable measure of web traffic.

home page: The main or central page of a website. Other pages on the website will usually link back to the home page.

hook: See angle above

house style: An organisation’s set of rules for how language and other elements are used, usually contained in a style guide available to all editorial staff. Style guides can vary from basic rules on spelling and grammar to complex documents on how words are used and pronounced.

howl-round: See feedback.

human interest story: A news story or feature which focuses on individual people and the effects of issues or events on them. Human interest stories are often used to make ideas more real and concrete in the minds of the viewer, reader or listener. Human interest stories can also cover unusual and interesting aspects of other people’s lives which are not particularly significant to society as a whole.


ident: See station ID.

imprint: Information printed in a newspaper or magazine showing the publisher details.

in-cue: A written note of the first few words of a piece of pre-recorded of audio (report or interview) to signal to the presenter or production staff how it will start. See also out.

Independent Television News (ITN): The main supplier of news to independent television companies in Britain.

Independent Television (ITV): The major commercial television network in Britain.

index: In newspapers, a table of content, usually on the front page or page 2.

indirect speech: See reported speech.

insert: (1) Additional text inserted into a story after it has been written, usually to give additional details. (2) Another term for audio used to illustrate a radio report. See also grab.

Internet:  The global network of interconnected computers. The World Wide Web and email are two parts of the Internet.

interruptible feedback (IFB): A method by which radio or television presenters – and sometimes guests – can hear the program output as well as messages from colleagues through an ear piece or headphones.

interview: A formal, usually structured conversation between a journalist and a source to get information for a story.

intranet: A private computer network within a company or organisation for internal users only.

intro: The first paragraph containing the most newsworthy part of a news story. In features and documentaries the intro may just lead the reader or listener into the story. Known as a lead in the US.

introduction: In broadcasting, a few words or sentences read by the presenter, telling listeners or viewers about the report which immediately follows.

inverted pyramid: The most common structure for writing a news story, with the main news at the start and the rest of the detail following in decreasing order of importance.

investigative journalism: Finding, reporting and presenting news which other people try to hide. It usually takes longer and requires more research that ordinary news reporting.


jargon: Specialised language concerned with a particular subject, culture or profession. It is not usually found in the everyday speech of ordinary readers or listeners and so should be avoided in the general media if possible.

jingle: Short piece of music played on radio to identify a regular feature, program or product being advertised.

journalism: The communication of current issues and events to an audience in a structured way, usually in relation to a set of generally agreed social principles such as accuracy.

journalist: Someone who finds and presents information as news to the audiences of newspapers, magazines, radio or television stations or the Internet. Journalists traditionally work within a set of generally agreed societal principles or within professional codes. Professional journalists are usually trained and receive payment for their work.

jump line: A line of type at the bottom of an incomplete newspaper or magazine article which directs the reader to another page where the story is continued. Also the line at the top of the continued article stating the page from which it was continued, also called a ‘from’ line. See also spill.

justification: Where each line in a column of text aligns to the same left and right margins. This is achieved by stretching or shrinking the width of letters or spaces between words. Sometimes called fully justified or set full. Compare with unjustified.


kerning:  A way of setting printed type so that adjacent characters appear to overlap, reducing the amount of horizontal space they require.

key points: Important facts or pieces of information which must be included in a news story. Some will go in the intro, others into the body of the story

kicker: (1) The first sentence or first few words of a story’s intro, set in a larger font size than the body text. (2) A small headline in different type above and slightly to the left of the main headline. (3) A few words at the beginning of a caption to grab the reader’s attention. (4) An ending that finishes a story or bulletin with a climax, surprise, or punch line (see also tailpiece).

kill: To cancel or delete all or part of a story. See also to spike.

kill fee: A reduced fee paid to a freelance journalist for a story that is not used.


layout: (1) A plan of how stories, pictures and other elements are to appear on the finished page of a newspaper or magazine. Sometimes called a dummy. (2) A set of stories, pictures and illustrations about a single subject.

layout sub: A sub-editor who specialises in planning the layout of pages.

lead: (Pronounced ‘leed’) (1) The first story in a news bulletin or on the front page of a newspaper. Also called a ‘splash’. (2) In the US, the first paragraph in a story. See also intro. (3) A tip that may lead a reporter to a story.

leader: An article written by the editor or a specialist giving the opinion of the newspaper on an issue. See also definition (1) of editorial above.

leading: (Pronounced ‘ledding’) Adding space between two lines, from the days when type was set in the metal lead.

leading question: A question phrased in such a way as to draw out a specific answer wanted by the questioner.

letters to the editor: Letters from readers published by a newspaper or magazine, expressing their views on previous content or current issues. Letters to the editor are read out on radio or shown on screen while being read out on television.

level: The loudness or volume of a sound.

libel: An older term for defamation. Traditionally, libel was the written form of defamation. Compare with slander.

lift: To take a news story, feature or quote from another newspaper or broadcaster and use it in your own report.

liftout: A special supplement – often attached to advertising or a promotion – which is inserted into a newspaper or magazine and can be lifted out by a reader.

lift-out quote:  Copying a quote or partial quote from within an article and highlighting it next to the body of the text using special type or formatting. See also pull-out quote.

lineage: A traditional method of paying freelance journalists for the number of lines – or column inches/column centimetres – of their work which appeared in a newspaper according to set rates.

line-up: A list of reports, interviews or other material compiled for an upcoming news bulletin or newscast, usually placed in the order in which they will be presented.

literal: See typo.

live: (Adjective) (1) Being broadcast as it happens. See also on air. (2) A microphone which is switched on and capable of recording sound is said to be ‘live’.

loaded words or loaded questions: Words which, in some contexts, contain strong value judgments and which indicate the user’s position on an issue. Used by a journalist, they often prompt strong reactions from interviewees but this can obscure useful discussions and prompt accusations of bias. ‘Terrorist’ and ‘lazy’ used in some contexts could be examples of loaded words.

lock-up: An agreed process by which journalists are taken to a room to see advance copies of a major announcement, such as a government budget, and in which they stay to prepare stories for release as soon as the budget is delivered in parliament or congress.

log: A record of events. (1) In broadcasting, a log (or logger) is a recording of everything which goes to air, kept for legal or regulatory purposes. (2) In television news production, a list of the elements in a report, usually compiled as the material is filed. Similar to a shotlist.

lower case: The small letters of the alphabet, i.e. not capital letters. Abbreviated to l.c.. Compare with upper case.


magazine: (1) A publication produced on a regular basis, containing a variety of articles, often with illustrations. Also called a periodical. (2) A radio or television program covering a number of different topics.

make-up: See layout.

managing editor: The senior editor involved in the day-to-day production of a newspaper or magazine, usually with overall responsibility for the gathering, writing and sub-editing of news.

markup: A sub-editor’s written instructions on a piece of copy on how to handle the text.

masthead: The name of a newspaper in a banner in special, distinctive type at the top of the front page.

media: (1) Short for mass media or news media, publishers or broadcasters bringing news and information to widespread audiences. (2) Plural of medium, different forms of communicating ideas such as digital, visual, sound etc.

media conference: Also called press conference or news conference. When reporters are gathered together to question someone in the news, usually taking it in turns to ask questions. Such gatherings are usually organised by an individual or company to deal with all the media in one session or to promote a new product or service.

media kit: (1) A set of materials provided to journalists by an organisation to promote their products or services. It may contain written documents, photographs, charts, schedules and other information the organisation wants journalists to focus on. (2) Information on advertising and other service costs made available by media companies to potential advertisers.

media officer: Also called press officer, a person employed by a company or other organisation to get positive publicity in the media and deal with enquiries from journalists.

media release: Also called a press release, information sent to the media to give an organisation’s views on an issue or promote a product or service.

mic: Short for microphone.

mojo: Mobile journalists who use light and portable reporting and communications tools such as mobile camera phones, PDAs and notebook wireless computers to record, edit and transmit their work in text, audio, pictures and video while in the field, without using an office.

morgue: A newsroom’s library, where old newspapers, clippings and pictures are stored for reference.

mug shot: A head-and-shoulders photograph of a person facing the camera.

multimedia: The way of presenting a subject using different types of media, such as video, audio, text and images in combination.

multiplex:  A single digital television or digital radio signal comprising several distinct channels of programming.


name super: A type of caption on screen, typically the name and title of the person speaking. Also called supers because they are superimposed over the image of the person who is speaking or cap gens (cg) from creation by a caption generator. They can also be called captions.

nat sound (natural sound): (1) The ambient sound recorded at or transmitted from the scene of an event or location report. Also known as wild sound. (2) The sound on a version of a story fed without the reporter’s voice track.

narrowcasting: Transmission of information, entertainment etc to a limited audience often sharing a specific interest or locality.

NCTJ: The National Council for Training of Journalists is the official UK industry accreditation board for journalism courses.

networked journalism: A form of citizen journalism which relies heavily on information shared through the Internet to create stories, often without original research by the writer or producer.

neutral question: A question asked in such a way that it does not imply personal opinion or bias. Compare with loaded questions above.

news: Information which is new, unusually and interesting or significant to the recipient. It is usually about people or related in some way to their lives. News is produced in a structured way by journalists.

news agency: A company that sells stories to media organisations. News agencies may produce news stories or features themselves or collect and redistribute them to media outlets.

news agency wires: See  wires below.

news angle: See angle above.

news belt: A round-up of short news stories on television.

news break: In broadcasting, a scheduled or unplanned interruption in programming to present a short news bulletin, either previewing an upcoming news program or to give breaking news of an important event.

newscast: US for a television bulletin.

news conference: See media conference.

news desk: The main desk in a newsroom, usually where the news editor and/or other senior journalists sit.

news director: The senior person in a television or radio newsroom, in charge of the news output, usually working with or supervising a news program’s executive producer.

news editor: The person in charge of which news events are covered and how news stories are gathered and written by reporters in a newsroom. In smaller newsrooms, this is often done by a chief reporter. See also chief or staff.

news in brief (NIB): Also punctuated as news-in-brief, a collection of short stories or a single story presented in one or two short paragraphs. In print or on a web page, NIBs may appear in a small box or a specific column at the side or bottom of a page. In broadcasting, they may either be a brief insert into other programming or be presented as a block of short stories within a bulletin. Collectively they may also be known as wraps, round-ups or news belts.

news list: A list of stories for coverage in the current edition of a newspaper or forthcoming news bulletin. It is usually prepared by the news editor.

Newspaper Society: British industry body representing regional and local newspaper owners.

newsprint: A cheap, low grade of paper made from recycled paper and wood pulp, used for printing newspapers.

newsreader: (1) The person – often a professional journalist – who presents news bulletins on radio or television. Also called an anchor. (2) Software that helps receive and read RSS blog and news feeds.

newsroom: A specially equipped office where journalists work producing news.

newsworthy: Aspects of an event or development that make it worth communicating in a news story or feature.

NIB: See news in brief above.

night editor: In a morning newspaper, the most senior journalist left in charge of a newsroom overnight when the editor has left.

noddy: In television, a brief cut-away shot of a reporter or interviewer listening to an interviewee’s answer, often nodding his or her head. Where there is only a single camera, noddies are usually shot after the interview ends and then edited into the finished piece to break up long slabs of the interviewee.

non-attributable: Information for publication or broadcast given on agreement that you do not identify the source. See also off-the-record.

non-linear editing: A television editing technique in which recorded video and audio information is loaded in digital form as separate shots or sequences into individual files (or bins) in an edit suite’s computer and then pieced together as a news report by an editor without having to wind the source tape backwards and forwards. Tape editing used to be a linear process of dubbing individual shots from a source tape onto an edit master in sequence.

nut graf or nut graph: A paragraph telling the essential elements of a story briefly, i.e. ‘in a nutshell’.

NUJ: The National Union of Journalists is a British trade union and professional organisation for journalists.


OB: Short for outside broadcast. Radio or television programs broadcast from a location outside the studios, usually live, using an OB van or OB truck.

obit or obituary: An article summarising the life and achievements of a person recently dead.

objective journalism: A basic type of journalism practiced in democracies in which the journalists do not allow their personal biases to affect their work, they take a neutral stance even on difficult matters and give a fair representation of events and issues. Compare with advocacy journalism.

Ofcom: British Broadcasting industry regulator.

off diary story: A news story which was not expected or scheduled in the diary.

off mic: Short for off microphone. (1) Sounds which are are muffled or faint because they are not directed straight into the microphone. (2) Comments which which are unintentionally picked up by a microphone while it is pointed at another subject.

off the record: (1) Information given to a journalist as background on condition that it will not be used in a story. (2) Information given to a journalist for use in a story on condition that the source will not be identified. Type (2) is also called non-attributable information. NB. Journalists should check exactly which of these conditions the source expects. See also background above.

omnidirectional mic: A microphone which picks up sound from all directions. Compare with unidirectional and bidirectional microphones.

on air: A program being currently broadcast to viewers or listeners. A studio which is ‘on air’ is said to be ‘live’.

on diary news: A news story scheduled in the newsroom diary for coverage.

online: On the Internet or on a web page.

online journalism: Reporting and writing news specifically for use on the Internet.

on spec: Article that is written in case it is needed (i.e. speculative), though it may not be used.

on the record: Information given by a source who has agreed to be identified in the story. Compare with off the record and non-attributable above.

op-ed:  Chiefly US, an opinionated story written by a prominent journalist.

op-ed page: The page in a newspaper opposite the editorial page, containing opinion columns, sometimes readers letters and other items expressing opinions.

open question: Also called an open-ended question, a question which cannot be answered with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, but requires the interviewee to give more information. ‘What happened?’ is an open question. Compare with closed question above.

opinion: A person’s thoughts about something it is not possible to prove is true by objective methods or the person does not wish to prove is true. Compare with fact above.

opinion page: See editorial page.

orphan: A single first line of a paragraph left incomplete at the bottom of a column of text, the rest of the paragraph appearing at the top of the next column of text. Normally avoided in typesetting. See also widow below.

out: An ending. (1) The final words or pictures on a radio or TV report or interview, noted to the director or presenter so they know that segment is finished. Also called an outcue. In reports from the field it is often the reporter’s sign-off name and location. (2) An abrupt ending. See hard out. (3) An abbreviation of out-take, see below.

outcue: See out above.

outlook: A list of events or developments which  may be covered in the news that day. First compiled at the start of the newsroom’s day, items may be added or taken away during the day. When actual reports are produced or live interviews are arranged, they are added to the line-up for the upcoming bulletin or newscast.

out of vision (OOV): In television, when a person’s voice is heard, either over the end sequence of a program – such as the credits – or while showing pictures or graphics on-screen. See also float.

out-take: In broadcasting, recorded material left out of the program that is finally broadcast. Humorous out-takes are often called flubs or bloopers.

over-dub: To dub sound on top of another sound, so the original sound can still be heard in the background. Usually used to put voice over background or wild sound or to put a translation in one language over the original words spoken in another language.

overrun: A program or report which is too long for its allotted time slot. See also run to time.


pack journalism: When individual journalists competing for coverage of an event or issue act together, like a pack of dogs chasing the same quarry.

package: A completed television news story pre-prepared for a news bulletin and ready for transmission. A package will contain a written introduction for the newsreader, the reporter’s edited report complete with vision and sound and an out-cue for the end.

pad: To add extra material to a story only to make it longer.

page views: A method of measuring the popularity of web sites by counting how many people downloaded a whole web page. Compare with hits.

pan: Slowly moving a television camera left or right in an arc parallel to the ground.

par: Short for a paragraph of text.

paraphrase: A summary of a person’s words given instead of a direct quote for greater understanding by the audience. See also reported speech.

partial quote: A quote of which only part of the sentence is used. If words are omitted from within the quote used, their absence is signified by ellipsis (three dots), e.g. He said there was ‘every chance…bodies would be found’.

patch: See round.

pay-per-view: A service in which a person pays only for the individual program or movie they wish to watch. It is usually delivered to the home by cable television or Internet download.

pay TV: A television service which viewers pay to receive, usually by subscription or pay-per-view.

PDA (Personal Digital Assistant): A small hand-held computer combining a mobile phone, organiser and software to connect to the Internet.

peg: See angle above.

periodical: See magazine.

phone-in: A type of radio program which invites listeners to telephone with information or comments for broadcast. See also talkback.

phono: See two-way below.

Photoshop:  A popular computer program used to edit and organise photographs.

pic: Short for photograph.

picture feeds: Video provided by news agencies that media organisations, pay to use.

pitch:  A reporter’s idea for a story as presented in outline to an editor.

Pitman: A system of shorthand mainly used in Britain and associated countries. It is regarded as able to achieve faster speeds than systems such as Teeline but is more complex to learn.

plagiarism: To use the work of another person as if it was one’s own, without attribution. It is unethical.

podcasts: Digital audio files available on a broadcaster’s website for automatic download by listeners using special software.

point: A unit for measuring the size of a type font. A modern standard point is 1/72nd of an inch or 0.35 of a mm.

popping: Unwanted small explosive sounds caused by a speaker being too close to a microphone when saying words with strong ‘p’, ‘t’, ‘d’ or ‘b’ sounds.

post: To put something on a website.

pork: Mainly US, material gathered by a journalist but held for later use if required.

Periodical Publishers Association (PPA): An organisation representing British magazine publishers.

podcast: Audio or video files that can be regularly or automatically downloaded from the website of their producer onto the computers of people who subscribe to receive them. Podcasting is an especially popular method of making radio and television programs available online after they have been broadcast, though some programs are now only produced for download. Once downloaded onto a computer, podcasts can be transferred to portable devices such as the Apple iPod or similar MP3 players. Video podcasts are often called vodcasts.

point of view (POV): (1) An event filmed as if through the eyes of a participant. (2) A form of documentary told from the producer’s perspective, without adhering to journalistic standards of impartiality.

pointer: Text at the end of an article indicating where in the newspaper or magazine the reader can find related articles.

portal: A web page through which visitors are encouraged to enter the main website for more pages and services.

POV: See point of view above.

pre-roll: In broadcasting, to start recorded material such as a tape or piece of music before the sound or vision is turned on, to assist with timing.

presenter: A person who presents a radio or television program on air. Called an anchor in US.

press:  A printing machine.

Press: The collective name for newspapers and magazines.

press conference: See media conference.

press officer: See media officer.

press release: See media release.

press room: The large room or building housing the printing machines (presses) for a newspaper or magazine. Also called a ‘print room’.

press run: The printing of an edition of a newspaper or magazine. Also the number of copies printed. Also called a print run.

Press Trust of India (PTI): The largest news agency in India, run as a not-for-profit cooperative providing and exchanging news in English and Hindi among more than 450 newspapers. It also provides a satellite news service.

print room: See press room.

producer: In broadcast journalism, the person responsible for a particular episode of a news program, a specific documentary or a single segment of a multi-report current affairs program. They usually report upwards to an executive producer.

production editor: A senior journalist responsible for making sure content in a newspaper or magazine is printed properly. Usually works in a press room or print room during the press run where he or she is able to make last-minute changes.

promo: See trail below.

proof: A copy of a page which has been typeset ready for printing, provided to editors, sub-editors or proof readers to correct errors or make final changes before the printing presses start production.

proof reader:  A person who checks typeset proofs and/or computer printouts to detect errors before the final printing of a publication. Also called a copy reader.

propaganda: Information presented intentionally to influence a mass audience to support or oppose something. Propaganda is usually motivated by self interest and can range from being selective in what it chooses to highlight or ignore to actively lying about events and issues. Not to be confused with advocacy journalism.

prospects: A list of possible stories for coverage.

public affairs: Part of an organisation dedicated to improving relationships with its public, often through the media. Some public affairs departments also monitor public opinion of it. See also media officer.

public broadcasting: Radio or television services funded through government by taxpayers or a user licence fee. Compare with commercial broadcasting.

publish: To make something available to an audience, usually in a printed or pictorial form, although material on the Internet is said to be published.

puff box: A newspaper’s own advertisements at the top of the front page promoting articles inside or in future issues.

puff piece:  A news story or feature written to make the subject seem good.

Pulitzer Prizes: America’s highest literary and journalism awards, administered by  Columbia University.

pull-out quote or pull quote: A specially powerful or significant quote or excerpt from a story, highlighted in a different typeface next to the main text or in gaps within a column. Also called a sell, lift-out quote or call-out.

put to bed: When journalists have finished their work on preparing a newspaper and it is sent to the presses for printing.


Q & A: (1) A conversation or interview printed verbatim in question and answer form. (2) In broadcasting, questions and answers between a studio presenter and someone in another location, either an interviewee or a reporter in the field.

quotation marks: Marks in a text to show the start and the end of a quote. Usually either single (‘) or double (“) inverted commas, depending on house style. Sometimes called speech marks. [See Chapter 8: Quotes]

quote: (1) The use in a printed story or on television of the exact words spoken by a person, distinguished by quotation marks at the start and finish. (2) Short for quotation marks. Compare with reported speech.


radio mic: A microphone which uses radio waves instead of cables to transmit signals to a receiver.

radio spectrum: That part of the electromagnetic spectrum used for carrying radio (and television) signals, ranging from 3 kHz to 300 GHz.

radiothon: (alt. radioathon) Special radio programming in which listeners are asked to telephone the station to make donations to a good cause or charity appeal. Typically, whole programs are dedicated to this single function and the names of people who pledge money are read out on air. On television, these are called telethons.

ragged: See unjustified text.

rate card: A published list of a media organisation’s standard rates for advertising, including deadlines and specifications.

ratings: A measure of the popularity of a television or radio program or part of a program by comparing its audience to the population as a whole.

raw: In broadcast journalism, material before it has been processed, especially edited. (1) Raw footage is the original sound and vision of a television report before being edited or additional sounds, captions etc are added. (2) Raw feed is this footage transmitted from location to the base studio or to other television stations, where it will be processed.

recto:  The right-hand page of a newspaper or magazine. Compare with verso.

redletter: An important breaking news story. From the newspaper practice of highlighting an exclusive, breaking news story in red type.

re-jig: To rewrite a story or reorganise a page, usually by moving elements around.

reported speech: A way of reporting what someone has said without using their exact words in a quote. Well-written reported speech allows a journalist to compress and explain a person’s words for greater efficiency and clarity. In grammar, sometimes called indirect speech. Compare with quote.

reporter: A journalist who gathers information – including researching and interviewing people – and writes news stories.

Reporters Without Borders: An international organisation that fights for press freedom around the world.

retraction: Withdrawal of story or part of a story after publication, often because a mistake has been made or a legal problem has arisen.

Reuters: One of the world’s oldest international news agencies started in London in 1851. Now part of the Thomson Reuters company.

review: A description of an event with a critical assessment of how well it was done. Reviews are typically written of plays and other theatre performances, concerts and recitals, new recordings, movies, radio and television programs, books, restaurants, exhibitions and other forms of entertainment.

revision: To improve a story by rewriting, updating or correcting information.

round: A reporter’s specialist area of coverage, such as ‘a police round’. Reporters develop personal contacts in these areas who can give them information. Often called a ‘beat’ in the US or a ‘patch’ in the UK.

round-up: A collection of short stories or summary of information about an event or a day. See also news in brief (NIB).

royalties: Money paid to someone for using their work.

RSS: Rich Site Summary (also called Really Simple Syndication) are formats for delivering regularly updated web content provided by news sites, blogs, audio, video and other online publishers. Users subscribe to feeds which the RSS reader on their computer or mobile device checks regularly for new material to download. See also podcast.

rules: In print, lines used to separate one element from another on a newspaper or magazine page.

run: To publish or broadcast a story. See also press run above.

rundown: A list of stories for a news bulletin. (1) A television line-up with additional technical information for studio and control room staff. (2) An amended line-up filed after the bulletin including any last-minute changes.

running order: The order in which stories appear in a bulletin or current affairs program, giving titles, times and other information..

running story: News which is reported as it happens while events unfold. See also breaking news.

run to time: A program or segment which is the correct length to fit into its time slot. A program or report which is too long is said to overrun, while one that is too short underruns.

rushes: Early edited version of video or film that needs further editing.


sans serif: A design of print type such as Ariel without small extensions at the ends or corners of letters.

satellite television: Television services delivered through satellites, received on the ground by satellite dishes and decoders. Compare with terrestrial television and cable T. In some countries, limited radio services are also delivered via satellite.

scare quotes: A word or short phrase put between quotation marks when they are not necessary, usually just for emphasis or to suggest disbelief, e.g. “global warming”.

scoop: An important or significant news published or broadcast before other competing media know of it.

Scoopt: A media agency created to help members of the public sell photographs and videos of newsworthy events to the media.

scrum: A gathering of reporters around a person, all competing to ask questions or take photographs. Compare with a media conference.

segue: (Pronounced SEG-way) In broadcasting, a transition from one topic to another using a word, idea or theme common to both.

sell: See pull-out quote.

series: A group of related stories or features on  a single topic, generally run in successive or regular editions of a newspaper, magazine or program.

serif: A design of print type such as Times Roman with small extensions (serifs) at the ends or corners of letters.

set left or set right: See unjustified text.

shoot: A pre-arranged or scheduled assignment to take pictures or ‘shoot’ film.

shorthand: A writing system which uses short strokes or special symbols to represent letters or words to make note-taking much faster. The most common systems in English are Pitman, Gregg and Teeline.

shotlist: In television and film, a list of ‘shots’ or sections of film for planning purposes or for editing.

sibilance: Distortion of sounds caused by a person being too close to a microphone when saying words with strong ‘s’, ‘z’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’ or ‘zh’ sounds.

sic: Latin for ‘thus’ or ‘so’, is usually written in square brackets as [sic] after an misused or misspelled word or phrase to show they have been reproduced exactly as spoken or written in the original, e.g. He said: ‘She gone [sic] to see her mother.’

sidebar: A column beside a main story which has more information about – or another angle to – the main story to which it is attached.

signature bock: See tagline (2).

sign-off: In broadcasting, the reporter or presenter’s goodbye at the end of a report or bulletin, often their name and – in – reports from the field – location.

single column centimetre (SCCM): See column centimetre.

slander: An older term for the spoken form of defamation. Compare with libel.

slug: A key word or phrase that identifies a news story while it is being prepared.

snap: A short message from a news agency alerting subscribers to an event about which they will shortly provide more detailed coverage. See also flash.

soft copy: Words or pictures which exist in computerised form as data. Compare with hard copy, where they are printed on paper

soft news: Stories about topics which are interesting and new but which have little or no material effect on people’s lives. Soft news focuses on interesting individuals rather than on major events or developments which impact on lots of people. Compare with hard news.

sound bite: A short segment of someone speaking, usually the most significant or interesting part of what they said.

sound effects: See effects.

sound on tape (SOT): Sound on a recorded television report, identified as such so a presenter knows when it will start so they do not talk over it.

source: (1) Where information comes from, usually a person who gives a journalist information. (2) In live television, the signal from a camera.

spike: To not publish a submitted article. Derived from a metal spike on which such rejected stories were impaled. See also to kill.

spill: The continuation of a story from one page to another. Called a jump in US.

spill line: Text at the bottom of an incomplete article on one page stating where the story is continued (‘spilled’) later in the newspaper or magazine, e.g. ‘Continued on page 12’.

spin: Putting a positive slant on something bad or emphasising only the positive aspects while ignoring the negatives. Compare with balance.

splash: An exciting front page story given prominence so people will take notice of it. See also lead (1)

spread: Two facing pages in a newspaper or magazine that are designed as one unit of interrelated articles.

square brackets: Also called ‘box brackets’. Used in quotes to denote the words between them have been modified from or added to the original, usually for greater clarity, e.g. The Prime Minister said: ‘We will not tolerate weapons [from Russia] to cross our borders.’

stab: A short pre-recorded sound inserted into a program or bulletin to create a pause or provide a break between different segments. See also sting below.

standby: (1) A program, segment or item held in reserve in case any scheduled items cannot be broadcast for any reason. (2) An instruction in a studio or outside broadcast for everyone to prepare to start a live program or recording.

standfirst: A short section of text between a headline and the text that follows. Often in a different type size to the body type, it gives a brief summary of the article that follows. Called a kicker (2) in the US

stand-up: a reporter’s appearance in a TV news story. Usually a head and shoulders shot which features the reporter talking into the camera at the scene of the news event, often used as a transition, or at the beginning or ending.

station format: Usually applies to the mix of talk and music presented by a radio station. Some stations have a mainly news and current affairs format, others may have a mainly music format or a news/talk format. It can also describe other factors such as local content, sports coverage, talkback etc.

station ID (identification): Pre-recorded music and/or words used to identify an individual radio or television station. IDs are usually composed around specific melodies, themes or slogans and made available to presenters in a variety of styles and lengths to suit different purposes in programming. A station ident may contain the station’s name and frequency, often accompanied by a musical jingle. Program idents give the program title and/or the presenter’s name.

stet: Latin for ‘let it stand’, a mark – the word ‘stet’ in a circle – used by sub-editors and proof readers telling the typesetter to disregard a change that had been previously marked. The relevant words are identified by underlining them with a dotted line.

still: A photograph or graphic used in television, not a moving picture.

sting: A short piece of music (from 5 to 30 seconds) played in program breaks or to add drama. Stings are either dramatic music or based on station identification melodies. A musical form of a stab.

stock footage: Shots of common events held in a newsroom’s video library and used to illustrate parts of television stories, e.g. footage of machines printing or counting money to illustrate an economics story. Also called file footage.

stop press: In newspapers, the latest available news just in. From a time when printing presses were stopped to put in urgent breaking news before continuing the print run. Papers often had Stop Press boxes in a corner of the front or back page where brief urgent stories could be inserted.

storyboard: A sequence of drawings or diagrams used in planning movies or longer television reports, showing approximately how the shots will appear.

straight news:  A straightforward account of factual news with little or no comment or analysis.

strapline: (1) In print and online, a kind of subhead or standfirst immediately following a larger headline. (2) In advertising, a slogan attached to a product brand name, e.g. ‘Heineken: Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach’.

streamer: See banner.

streaming: Watching or listening to a video or audio file as it is being played from the source site, rather than waiting until it is downloaded and then opened.

stringer: A regular contributor to a newspaper or broadcaster who is not a member of staff. Stringers are often paid by the length of stories they provide.

style: A consistent way of presenting information. See house style.

style guide: A document or online set of rules on how language is used in a particular organisation. See also house style.

sub: (1) Short for ‘sub-editor’ below. (2) The process of sub-editing copy for inclusion in a newspaper, magazine or news bulletin.

sub-editor: Journalists who checks and edit a reporters’ work, format stories for the page, add headlines or plan the page layout. See also copy editor.

subhead:  (1) A small headline below the main headline. (2) A small headline inserted in the body of a story to visually break up a long column of type.

sub judice: A legal term meaning ‘under judgment’ to describe matters actively being dealt with by the legal system. In many countries there are restrictions on what the media can report during sub judice periods.

subscription radio: A radio service only available by paying a fee and usually transmitted by cable or wirelessly in a code which can only be decoded by special paid-for radio receivers.

subtitles: A text version of the words spoken in a television program or movie, displayed at the bottom of the screen as the relevant words are spoken. Mainly used as a way of presenting dialogue from a foreign language as text in the language of broadcast. Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing are called closed captions.

super: Graphics – usually words –  superimposed over a television image giving details about it, such as a person’s name or where they are.

syndicate: (Verb) To simultaneously sell or otherwise provide a journalist or photographer’s work to other newspapers, magazines or broadcasters who subscribe to that service.

syntax: The rules by which words in a language are put together in relation to each other to make sentences.


tabloid:  A small, compact format newspaper, usually less than 43 cm (17 inches) long. Also used to describe a newspaper style that uses short, simply-written stories and headlines with lots of pictures to illustrate more sensational content. Compare with broadsheet.

tagline: (1) Contact information for an article’s author, published to enable readers to provide feedback. (2) Also called a signature line, information about the author appended to the bottom of an email or blog. (3) In advertising, a word or phrase invented by marketers to help identify a specific brand, e.g. the tagline for the movie Jaws was ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water’.

tailpiece or tail-piece: A surprising or humorous observation at the end of a story or bulletin, associated with the story or bulletin but standing apart from it because of its subject matter or tone. Also called a kicker (see definition 4). In printing, an illustration at the end of a chapter.

talent: Someone invited to be interviewed on radio or television.

talkback: (1) A type of radio program in which the presenter invites listeners to telephone in and speak on air. (2) Two-way intercom equipment by which a radio or television presenter or newsreader in a studio can communicate with producers or directors in a control room. (3) An Australian name for talk radio.

talk radio: A radio station whose main format is speech-based programming, not music-based. Talk radio is usually more information oriented, often with news and current affairs services and talkback programs.

tape library: A radio or television station’s archive of recorded audio and video tapes. Once holding mainly magnetic tape, increasingly newsroom archives are hold sound recordings and television footage within computer systems

tear sheet: A page cut or torn from a newspaper to show someone – such as an advertiser – that a story of picture was used.

tease: Material promoting a story which ‘teases’ the reader or listener by hinting at but not revealing the real story, e.g. ‘The story of a man who’d afraid of flowers. We find out why later in the program.’

teaser: A short audio or video segment produced to advertise an upcoming news bulletin or news items.

Teleprompter: See Autocue above.

Teletext: A news and information text service offered through television sets, accessed through interactive menus on screen.

telethon: See radiothon.

technobabble:- Confusing technical jargon.

Teeline: A simplified system of shorthand used by journalists in Britain and associated countries. It is regarded as easier to learn than Pitman or Gregg, but harder to achieve high note-making speeds with.

teleprompter: See autocue above.

terrestrial television: Television transmitted from local towers to the home over radio waves. Compare with satellite television and cable TV.

testimonial: A statement saying positive things about a product, often by a celebrity or respected client.

throw: Where one person on-air passes (‘throws’) the task of presentation to someone else, e.g. ‘And now we go to our reporter at the scene …’

thumbnail: A half-column picture in newspapers or a reduced size picture on a web page which, when clicked on, brings up the full sized picture or illustration.

tie in: (1) To explaining how a current story can be seen in the context of past events. Also known as a tie back.

time check: A announcement on air of the time.

tip: Information given to a reporter about a possible story.

titles: Text which appears on screen at the beginning – and sometimes the end – of a television program or movie, usually with music in the background. Credits are titles which list the names and jobs of the people involved in the production.

TK: Short for ‘to come’, a sub-editor’s mark in text that additional material will be inserted there later, before production and printing. Occasionally written as ‘TKTK’ so it will not be missed.

top head: (1) Headline at the top of a column of text. (2) A banner headline on a web site.

trail or trailer: In broadcasting, a short segment promoting an item coming later in the program. Also called a promo.

transcript: A word-for-word written version of an interview or other spoken segment. Increasingly transcripts are posted online.

transition: In news reporting, a way of moving smoothly from one story or section of a story to another.

two-shot: In television, a camera angle which includes two people on the screen, usually an interview guest and the interviewer.

two-way: An interview conducted by a presenter in the studio with a correspondent in the field. In television they are also called phonos.

typeface: In printing, a set of letters, numbers and punctuation marks designed in one particular style. The typeface of this glossary is Ariel. The typeface of this sentence is Courier New.

typesetter: In the days before desktop publishing, the person who turned a journalist’s work into metal type for printing. Often called a compositor.

typo: An error in typing a story.


underrun: A program or report which is not long enough to fill its allotted slot on the schedule. See also run to time.

unidirectional mic: A microphone which picks up sound from only one direction. Compare with omnidirectional and bidirectional microphones.

unjustified: Text in columns where the individual lines to not all align to the same left or right margin. Also called ragged. Unjustified text which aligns with the left margin but not with the right margin is said to be set left, flush left or ragged right. Text which aligns with the right margin but not the left is said to be set right, flush right or ragged left.

UPI: United Press International news agency, launched in the USA in 1907.

upper case: Capital letters. Abbreviated to u.c. or caps.

user-generated content: Web sites where most of the content is sent in by its users in the form of articles, comments, video, photographs etc.


verbatim: The actual words used by a speaker.

verso: The left-hand page of a newspaper or magazine. Compare with recto.

video blogger or vlogger: A blogger who publishes video on the Internet.

video journalist (VJ):  (1) A reporter who also does his or her own video recording in the field. (2) A journalist who publishes reports illustrated by video the Internet.

vodcast: To podcast videos.

voice over (VO): A television technique in which a reporter or narrator speaks while vision is being shown on screen. See also out of vision.

voicer or voice report: An audio report from a radio reporter, often from the scene of an event.

vox pop: From the Latin vox populi ‘voice of the people’, short interviews where several members of the public are stopped at random and asked questions to gauge approximate public opinion about an issue. Also called streeters.

VU meter: An instrument showing how ‘loud’ a sound from a microphone or recording is. Stands for ‘volume unit’.


web scraping: Software which trawls web sites for content it can copy to its own site.

webcasting: Video or audio broadcast on the Internet, usually live.

widow:  The final, short line of a paragraph which has become separated from the paragraph in the previous column and therefore appears at the top of the next column. See also orphan above.

wi-fi: Wireless Internet or network connection.

wiki: An Internet site where information can be edited or added to by readers.

wild sound: See natural sound above.

windshield: A foam cover protecting a microphone from wind noise. It also helps to reduce popping. Also called a windsock.

wires:  Stories or photographs provided by wire services for journalists to use in reporting or compiling news for publication or broadcast. Media organisations typically subscribe to wire services for an annual fee.

wob:  White text on a black or dark coloured background.

wrap: In broadcasting, (1) a summary of an evolving issue or the events of a day, often drawing on material in reports which have already gone to air or (2) a collection of news in brief NIBs.

wrap-up questions: The final questions in an interview, in which the interviewer clarifies any outstanding issues and checks they have not missed anything, e.g. ‘Is there anything else you can tell me about the crash?’

write-off story: A short, front-page version of a story which is repeated in full with more details inside the newspaper.

WWWW & H: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? The six most important questions journalists should ask and news stories should answer.

X, Y or Z

yellow journalism: An old-fashioned US term for sensational journalism.

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