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March 30, 2023updated 31 Mar 2023 5:26pm

‘F*** me, Doris!’ How’s that for a dog’s dick kicker? Press Gazette’s guide to journalism jargon

From flongs to fudgeboxes and clickbait to cookies. An A-Z of UK journalism jargon.

By William Turvill

On old Fleet Street, widows and orphans were not welcome. A marmalade dropper or a “f*** me, Doris” very much were – and could make for a splash, or at least a page lead. They might even warrant a dog’s dick and would likely prompt a disco or two at the BBC the following morning. As long as the story wasn’t spiked or, to use Sky News parlance, biffed. In those days, anything likely to “go viral” was to be treated with caution or avoided altogether.

For an industry that specialises in the clear communication of information, journalism is a particularly jargony trade. A couple of weeks ago, when I tweeted out a request for peers to share with me the best and worst examples of journalism jargon, I was inundated with more than 100 responses. Having worked for newspapers, magazines and websites for more than ten years, I’m slightly ashamed to admit that many of the submissions had me flummoxed: wob? Flong? Dateline? And don’t get me started on broadcast, with its astons, LiveUs and ULAYs or OLAYs.

The more time I spent thinking about this topic, the more I realised there is a huge amount of jargon that most journalists take for granted. Most muggles (non-journalism folk) likely know what a splash is, and most are familiar with the much used (abused?) scoop. But what about: byline? Content? Copy? Nib? Stock pic? Sub? Traffic? SEO?

As I was writing the definitions of some words, I realised that it is near impossible to explain some journalism jargon without using yet more jargon. For example, when explaining the noun “add”, I wrote: “Additional content for a story filed earlier.” But is the journalese definition of “content” obvious to the uninitiated? Certainly “filed” warrants explanation. And what about “story”, a word that many might associate with authors of fiction? And so the list grew.

At some point in their careers, journalists, like those working in other sectors, begin to accept the day-to-day lingo of the job. It must terrify many young staff starting out now. I can still recall the feeling of dread I felt when, the day before a work experience stint at City AM, I was told I should dress smartly because I’d likely be sent out to “do vox pops”.

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To help out the next generation of vox poppers, below is my guide to more than 250 pieces of British journalism jargon. Most of the terms remain relevant today, though I’ve included some outdated words that I found interesting or amusing. For readers particularly interested in the lost language of newspapers, I’d recommend Neil Benson’s guide here.

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This is not a comprehensive list, and I know I’ll have missed many terms in broadcasting especially, so please send glaring omissions, angry rants and helpful tips to and I may update the list at some point in the future. Or if you’d like to berate me in public: @wturvill.


Ad An advert

Add – Additional content for a story filed earlier

E.g. “I have an add for my Kim Kardashian story – her agent has emailed over a statement.”

Algorithm – A piece of code that determines the visibility of an article on a technology platform, such as a social media app or search engine

Note: This is certainly not the technical definition of an algorithm, but it is probably everything a non-tech journalist needs to know.

Analysis – A feature that seeks to explain the whys and wherefores of a news story

Angle The newest or most interesting information in a story

E.g. News editor: “What’s the angle for this story?”

Article – A news story or feature

Tip: “Article” is a slightly higher-brow synonym of story, but lower-brow than piece

Aston – In broadcast, traditionally a machine used to put designations under a studio guest’s name on-screen

Attic – A story at the top of a newspaper page above the lead item


Background A conversation with a source who should not be quoted on the record. See Chatham House

E.g. “Can we speak on background?”

Backbench – A collection of senior journalists responsible for the production of a newspaper

Banging out – A newsroom tradition. When a popular (or at least long-serving) member of staff leaves the office after their last shift, staff will bang their desks to see them out

Fun fact: Originally this was done with blocks of type, nowadays staff grab a ruler, pen or just use the palm of their hand.

Basement – A story at the bottom of a newspaper page

Bash out – To write a news story at pace

E.g. “Will you bash out 500 words on Prince Harry, please?”

Belter – A good story

Biff – Possibly a Sky News-specific term, to drop a previously commissioned or approved story that was due for broadcast. Similar to the newspaper term spike

Blob – Bullet point

Bluey – Courtesy of Barbara Govan: “Over dramatic TV news editor, rewriting the top story, just before the bulletin. It would need blue carbon paper spliced between two sheets of script paper, rolled into the typewriter. Top copy for the news reader, lower for the gallery.”

E.g. “Get me a bluey!”

Bounce rate – In digital journalism, the proportion of visitors to a story that do not click through from this page to another

Break – The act of revealing a news story to readers or viewers

Breaking – A live news story

Tip: When tweeting that something is “BREAKING”, ensure you are among the first ten journalists to notice and mention the story.

Briefing – A conversation, typically on background, with a source or PR in which they seek to explain the context of a story

Broadsheet – Formerly the name for a large, up-market newspaper, now a name for newspaper brands that either are broadsheets (the FT and Telegraph) or used to be (The Guardian, Times and Independent)

Tip: News websites that act like broadsheet newspapers but have never been broadsheet newspapers (e.g. Politico, Tortoise, etc.) can never be referred to as broadsheets.

Bureau – A newsroom based in a different location to an organisation’s headquarters

Bureaus – A commonly-used plural of bureau

Bureaux – The smug pedant’s plural of bureau

Byline – The displayed name of the writer of a story

E.g. “By William Turvill”


Cache – The currently-stored version of a website visible to users

E.g. “I’ve corrected a headline error on the homepage. Could you refresh the cache, please?”

Chapel – A collection of union members in the newsroom

Chatham House Official: “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed”

Tip: Never refer to the Chatham House Rule as “rules”. If you do, you will anger pedantic peers. There is only one rule. (Unless you count the rule that you must never refer to the Chatham House Rule as “rules”.) With thanks to top pedants Etan Smallman, Michael Taggart and Marie Le Conte.

Chequebook journalism – The practice of paying to acquire the rights to stories or interviews, typically from celebrities

Chumbox – A form of online advertising whereby advertisers pay to appear in suggested content boxes underneath news stories

Chum bucket – See chumbox

Churnalism – Popularised in Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News, a derogatory term for journalism that is considered lazy and is largely based on press releases or ripping other journalists’ work

Churn rate – The proportion of readers that unsubscribe from, or fail to renew subscriptions in, news products

Chyron – In broadcast, a caption on a television screen

Circulation – The average number of copies of a newspaper or magazine edition published and sold

Clickbait – A derogatory term for online content produced to attract clicks, often through catchy and sometimes misleading headlines

Tip: Many news organisations quietly welcome clickbait. But when delighting editors with clickbait, ensure you do not call your work clickbait.

Clicks – In online journalism, views on news stories

Clickthrough rate The proportion of users that visit a link, typically through a newsletter

Clippings – Cut-outs of articles from previous publications often stored in an archive

CMS – A content management system, used for both newspaper production and news websites

E.g. “Can you please whack that in the CMS?”

Colour piece – A descriptive, adjective-heavy feature

Fun fact: In his younger days, BBC presenter Amol Rajan amused colleagues at The Independent when he was asked to write a colour piece while reporting on the Madeleine McCann case from Portugal. Rajan told Campaign magazine in a later interview that he was phoned by an editor who said: “I like the intro, I like the payoff, it’s all very nice, but what the fuck is with all these references to the magenta sky, the lilac walls and the terracotta brickwork?’… I thought I had written a colour piece – I didn’t know what one was.”

Column – 1. An opinion-heavy article.

2. A vertical line of text in a newspaper or magazine

Columnist – A journalist who writes articles containing their opinion

Come-on – A box with a phone number or email address encouraging readers to get in touch with similar stories

Conference – An internal meeting of editors and journalists to discuss the news agenda and future stories

Confidential – Secret information shared by a source that cannot be repeated

Contact – 1. A source, typically one that goes unnamed among colleagues

2. An excuse to leave the office or go off-grid for job interviews and drinks with friends

E.g. “I’ll be late in tomorrow morning – I’m meeting a contact.”

Contacts book – An address book containing the contact details of contacts, often no longer a physical book but stored on a smartphone

Content – Journalism material and stories (usually for a website)

Conversion rate – The proportion of visitors to a news website that buy a subscription

Cookie – A piece of code, soon to be extinct (see Cookiepocalypse), that tracks information about users visiting websites

Copy – The words that make up a written story

E.g. “Can you file your copy within five minutes, please?”

Copy taster – A journalist who makes preliminary judgments on whether a story should appear in or on their news outlet

Core update – When Google makes significant changes to its algorithms

Correspondent – A reporter specialising in a certain area, either a place or topic. Correspondents tend to be either more senior, or geekier, than reporters, and less senior than editors

E.g. Business correspondent, foreign correspondent, Middle East correspondent, etc.

CPM – Cost per mille. The rate a website will be paid in advertising per thousand clicks

CQ – Conference quickie. In Fleet Street days, when journalists would sneak out for an alcoholic beverage while senior editors were in conference, according to Lindsay Nicholson

Cutaways – In broadcast, random footage to supplement TV coverage

Cuttings – See clippings


Dark SidePR

E.g. When a journalist quits their job to work in PR, they are said to have crossed to the Dark Side.

Dateline – Text that indicates where a newspaper dispatch has come from

Death knock – Turning up at the home of the relatives of a deceased person in an attempt to interview them

Deck – Part of, or all of, a newspaper headline

Diary – A gossip section in a newspaper

Digital native – 1. A news outlet that was founded as a digital-only product

2. A reader who is used to consuming news digitally

Disco – BBC parlance for a discussion

Dispatch – A story typically filed from a faraway land, often with a dateline

DJ – Anyone who works in broadcast journalism, according to some in newspapers

E.g. “Why on earth would you leave newspapers to go and become a DJ?!”

Dog’s cock – A exclamation mark

Dog’s dick – See dog’s cock

Doorstep – To attempt to interview someone with no prior warning (not necessarily on their doorstep)

Fun fact: Former Sky News bigwig Adam Boulton believes he is the only journalist to have ever doorstepped Queen Elizabeth II.

Download – A unit of popularity in the podcast sector, when an episode has been listened to or been automatically added to a potential listener’s device

Downpage – See basement

Drivetime – In radio, times of the day when people are likely to be listening in their cars

Dropped intro – A speciality of US journalism, an article introduction that doesn’t immediately relay the point or newsline of a story

DTL – Down the line. In broadcast, an interview that is conducted over the phone rather than face-to-face

Dummy – A mock-up of a newspaper page with random or non-sensical text in the place of headlines and news reports (not designed for public consumption)

Dwell time – The time a reader spends on the page of an online article


Editor – 1. Typically the most senior journalist in a newsroom, unless working beneath an editor-in-chief

2. When preceded by other words, used to indicate that a journalist is senior and has oversight and responsibility for the work of others within their organisation (e.g. news editor, associate editor, deputy editor, assistant editor, features editor, etc.)

3. A senior correspondent (e.g. travel editor, rather than travel correspondent, or media editor, rather than media correspondent)

Tip: A promotion from correspondent to editor in definition 3 could be the result of good work, or the fear that good work could result in the correspondent being poached by a rival news organisation.

Editor-at-large – Often an honorary title given to a senior and generally respected journalist, usually with no day-to-day editing role

Editor-in-chief – Usually the most senior journalist in a newsroom. Sometimes an honorary title similar to editor-at-large

Embargo – A gentleman’s agreement under which information from a press release cannot be publicised by a journalist before a certain time and date

E.g. “STRICT EMBARGO: Friday, 31 March, 00:01.”

ENG – In broadcast, a non-live interview clip

Ends – In newspapers, the word written at the bottom of a story to indicate it is complete.

Tip: An ‘ends’ is to a story what a ‘Roger’ is to a walkie-talkie conversation.

Evergreen – A story, usually a feature, that is not time-sensitive. In digital journalism, an evergreen story is likely to continue generating traffic long after it has been published

Exclusive – A fresh and significant piece of information or news that has not been reported by another journalist

Tip: When tweeting “EXCLUSIVE”, journalists should ensure that no other journalists have written, or at least tweeted, about the same story previously.


Feature – A lengthy story, containing plenty of colour and often without a discernible news line. Frowned upon by some hard news advocates

File – To submit a story to an editor

Filler – Content for a story that is included to fill space or increase word count

Flak – A PR person

Flatplan – A layout of a future newspaper or magazine edition, often with dummy pages (not for public consumption)

FlongNeil Benson to the rescue: “A flexible, papier-mâché mould which takes an impression of the forme (the flat, metal page assembled by a compositor). From the flong, a semi-circular metal stereotype is cast, for use on the rotary press.”

FoC – Father of the chapel, the male leader of a newsroom’s union chapel

Freelance A self-employed journalist

F*** me, Doris – An exciting and unexpected news story

E.g. “Wow. That is a ‘F*** me, Doris’ of a story.”

F*** over – To put out a story that makes a person look bad, especially a person who might have expected support from the journalist or the outlet they represent

Fudgebox – From Neil Benson: “A device that enabled late-breaking news to be printed without stopping the press”


Generate – A word that takes most or all of the romance out of journalism, generally used while speaking about website traffic

E.g. “Did you see how much traffic we generated on that story about Burger King’s new menu?”

Grout – Content to fill empty space on a page, typically using Nibs

GV – General view photograph of a scene for a newspaper


Hack – A somewhat derogatory name for a journalist, although some embrace it. Sunday Times Insight team journalist Phillip Knightley called his memoir “A Hack’s Progress”.

Hamming up The act of making a story seem more exciting or urgent than it is

Hard news – Serious stories, often boring and hard to read or understand

Hatchet job – A story that apparently seeks to f*** over a person, typically an interviewee

Headline – The words that appear in large text above a story and are designed to entice readers

Hits See clicks

Hit piece – A story designed to cause damage to its subject, similar to a hatchet job but likely not the result of an interview

Homepage – The main page of a news website

Hook – See angle

HTML – Hyper Text Markup Language. The formatting code behind an online story, viewed through a CMS

Hyperlink – A link through to another webpage from the text of an article

E.g. “If you enjoy this article, you should also read Press Gazette’s guide to newsroom dress codes.”


Index – To flag a story to Google for inclusion in search results

Interview – An on-the-record conversation with a source, either to inform a story or for a profile

Intro – Introduction

Tip: If you use the four-syllable “introduction” over the two-syllable “intro” in a newsroom, an editor will likely assume you have too much time on your hands and aren’t working hard enough.

Investigation – Typically an off-diary story built up over a lengthy period of time, often based on background or off-the-record interviews or undercover work


Jism/ J’ism – In the early days of Twitter, shorthand for “journalism”. Swiftly abandoned after Twitter dropped its 140-character limit

Journo – Journalist


Keyphrase – In online journalism, words that are central to the story and will be used to attract traffic using SEO techniques

Keyword – A single-word version of keyphrase

Kicker – A short phrase deployed at the start of a headline for emphasis

E.g. Revealed: Headlines are designed to make you read stories

Kill – To spike a story

Kill fee – A payment made to a freelance whose story has been killed

Kilt – An angle that could make a story interesting to a Scottish reader (with thanks to Judith Duffy)

E.g. “Put a kilt on it.”


Leader – An opinion article without a byline intended to reflect the view of a newspaper

Leaving page – A spoof newspaper or magazine front page, often containing blue talk and dark humour, presented to a departing member of staff. Certainly not for public consumption.

Lede – From American journalism, the introduction to a news story

Legacy – From American journalism, a demeaning name for news organisations that used to, or continue to, publish newspapers

Levels – In broadcast, volume

Line – 1. A piece of new or interesting information to include in a news story

E.g. “That’s a good line.”

2. A single row in a column of text in a newspaper or magazine

LiveU – Broadcasting apparatus that enables live coverage from anywhere

Lobby – A group of approved political journalists who have special access to Parliament and take part in regular conferences with government spokespeople


Magazine – 1. A publication, often containing features, that comes out weekly, monthly, bimonthly, bi-annually or annually

Tip: Some magazines, e.g. The Economist, refer to themselves as newspapers.

2. In the US, the word can also be used to describe regular television or radio programmes

Marmalade dropper – See F*** me, Doris

Masthead – 1. The main logo containing the name of a newspaper or news website, e.g. Daily Mail, Mail Online, The Daily Telegraph, the i, etc.

2. It can also refer to the box of information about editorial contacts contained in a newspaper or magazine (US origin)

MC – Formerly at Mail Online, a story that had been ordered by Martin Clarke and was therefore of urgent importance

McDonald’s death knock When a reporter is sent on a death knock, gives it a miss, chows down on fast food, and later informs their editor that the family were unwilling to speak

Mf – More follows. Written at the end of a news story to indicate that extra copy is to be filed

Mid-market – Tabloid newspapers that are not red-tops, including the Daily Mail and Daily Express

Tip: Mid-market newspapers do not refer to themselves as mid-market newspapers or tabloids. But they do distinguish themselves from broadsheets.

MoC – Mother of the chapel, the female leader of the newsroom’s union chapel

Mojo – A mercifully short-lived term for “mobile journalism”. Possibly, like jism, a victim of Twitter’s decision to drop its 140-character limit

Monkey – A term – either playful or derogatory, depending on your source – for a photographer

Muggle – A light-hearted term for a person who is not a journalist


NATSOT – In audio, a soundbite of natural sound, e.g. birds tweeting, chanting during a parade/protest

Nib – News in brief. A short news article typically summed up in one paragraph for a newspaper

News agency – A news-gathering operation that provides content to other outlets, usually not well known to the public (with some notable exceptions)

E.g. PA (formerly known as Press Association), Caters, SWNS, Reuters, AFP, AP, etc.

News agenda – A collection of stories relevant to an outlet or outlets at a given time

Tip: Journalists, editors, PRs, politicians and many others aim to set the news agenda.

News list – A list of stories and ideas to be covered by an outlet, typically pitched to editors by more junior members of staff

Newsdesk – 1. In large newsrooms, the newsdesk is an area occupied by senior journalists – e.g. news editors and assistant news editors – that report to the editor or editor-in-chief

2. In smaller newsrooms, the journalists sometimes refer to their entire news team as the newsdesk

Newsline See line

News wire – See news agency

Newsworthy – Stories judged to be of sufficient interest for coverage by an outlet

Nub – A short summation of a news story

Nutgraf – A paragraph in an article that sums up the angle of a story


OB – Outside broadcast

Off-diary story A news report, often an exclusive, that has not been prompted by scheduled events

Off stone – The time at which a newspaper edition is ready to start printing and no more edits can be made

 E.g. George Osborne ahead of his first day as editor of the Evening Standard: “Now I’ve got to get in there – we’ve a paper to get off stone!” 

Off the record – Information passed on by a source that cannot be attributed to them

Note: In US journalism, definitions of on background and off the record are widely understood. In UK journalism, definitions vary and generally need to be discussed with sources.

OLAY – In broadcast, overlay. Footage that covers someone speaking, usually used during news headlines or to cover an edit in a soundbite

On the record – Comments or information from a source that can be attributed to them in quotes

OOV – In broadcast, out of vision. See OLAY

Op-ed – From US journalism, an opinion piece

OTR – See off the record

Orphan – When the first line of a paragraph appears at the foot of a column in a newspaper or magazine. Undesirable


Pack – A group of journalists covering the same topic, often referred to as a “press pack”

Tip: Celebrities and politicians have a fickle relationship with press packs. They are often secretly loved when times are good, but outwardly loathed when times are bad.

Package – In broadcast, a prepared news report containing multiple facets, e.g. interviews and pieces to camera

Page lead – The longest and most prominent story on a newspaper page

Page views – In digital journalism, the number of times a news story has been viewed

Par – Paragraph

Pap – To take an unsolicited photograph of a person, usually a celebrity

Paparazzi 1. Photographers that generally specialise in unsolicited pictures of celebrities

2. To some celebrities, anybody who makes money from taking photographs

Pay off – The last, ideally artistic, line of a feature

E.g. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Peg – See angle

Phoning in – When a reporter telephones a newsroom to file their written copy via speech (regrettably rare since the advent of smartphones and wireless internet)

Phono – See DTL

Photo agency – A news agency that deals in photographs

Piece – A word substituted for story or article, usually by broadsheet journalists

Pitch – To suggest a story for coverage to an editor

PKG – See package

PR – A public relations adviser

Press conference An organised gathering where journalists are given the opportunity to ask on-the-record questions of people of interest, e.g. police, football managers, politicians, etc.

Press release – Information, stories and quotes sent to journalists typically by PRs

Presser – 1. See press release

2. See press conference

Producer – A journalist who manages or aids in the creation and running of broadcast media news. Like reporters in the world of written journalism, they report to editors. Responsibilities include booking interviews, conducting and editing interviews, cutting footage and sound, managing transmission and timings and writing scripts and stories.

Production journalism – The art of forming, laying out and sub-editing a newspaper or magazine

Profile – A feature focused on a noteworthy individual, often based on an interview

Proof – A copy of a draft page of a magazine or newspaper. Not for public consumption.

Proper journalism – The subject of constant debate, broadly defined as the opposite of churnalism

PTC – In broadcast, a piece to camera

Puff piece – An often derogatory description of a story or feature that is judged to be overly flattering to its subject

Tip: If the subject of article tells you they think it is “fair”, the likelihood is that your rivals will consider it to be a “puff piece”.

Pull quote – An interesting quote reprinted in enlarged text next to a story to draw a reader’s attention


Quote – Words written or said by a source on the record


Ragout In newspapers, a photograph of a previous edition or page to demonstrate previous coverage

Red-top – Tabloid newspapers traditionally with mastheads set on a red background, including The Sun, Daily Mirror and Daily Star

Rejig – To rearrange the order of a story

Reporter – A journalist who reports into an editor or editors. They gather news, ideas, conduct interviews and write or present stories to readers or viewers

Renose – To edit the top of a story to give it a different angle

Returning visitors – In digital journalism, news website users that revisit the same website in a certain period

Revealed – A common kicker used either to inject excitement into a headline or to remind readers that news outlets exist to provide them with information they might not otherwise possess

Reverse ferret – A sudden reversal of an editorial line on a subject

Riddle – A headline ending in a question mark

E.g. From John Sturgis: “My favourite is when you are sure about a story but haven’t quite stood it up to the satisfaction of the lawyers so someone suggests: ‘Do it as a riddle.’ On the basis that if you add a question mark it’s marginally less defamatory.”

Ripping – Replicating the content (but not the exact wording) of a story reported by another news outlet, giving credit if it cannot be independently verified

Ripping off – See ripping


Scoop – An exclusive story of significance.

Scooplet – A miniature scoop

Tip: If a journalist confesses to having broken a “scooplet” it might indicate that their story, while exclusive, was obtained through unheroic means (e.g. they might have received a press release or briefing before their peers).

Screamer – See dog’s cock

Scrum – A large pack of journalists gathered at a newsworthy event or place of interest

Scuttlebutt – Gossip

SEO – Search engine optimisation. A trick of digital journalism to enhance traffic to a story from Google or another search engine

Sexing up – See hamming up

Share – To post a link to an online article on social media

Shelve – 1. To delay the publication or broadcast of a story, usually until further information or a new hook has emerged

2. For an editor, to spike a story and hope that the journalist behind it either forgets it or realises it is not of interest to you

Shoe-leather journalism – Journalism that is typically conducted on foot. Equated by many to proper journalism

Sic – Indicates a mistake within a quote that is the fault of the source rather than the writer

Tip: Ordinarily, a journalist could either omit a spoken error or correct it using square brackets (e.g. by changing “He said: ‘I’m an clever boy [sic]'” to “He said he was a ‘clever boy'” or “He said: ‘I’m [a] clever boy.'”) When you see a “sic” in use, it often indicates that a journalist wants to expose their source as a halfwit.

Sidebar – In newspapers, a column beside a page lead

Sidebar of shame – Mail Online’s celebrity section on the right-hand side of its homepage

Silly season – Periods in which news cycles are slow, typically around Christmas and between July and August

Tip: Silly season is a good time for freelances and PRs to pitch sub-standard stories and churnalism opportunities.

Shoddy journalism – Journalistic work that is considered lazy or sloppy and full of errors

SOT – Sound on tape. In audio journalism, a segment of interview or captured speech, usually edited

Soundbite – See SOT

Sketch – A descriptive report on an event, such as Prime Minister’s Questions. Often considered a subset of colour piece

Snap – 1. Breaking news alert from a news agency

2. A photograph

Snapper – A somewhat derogatory term for a photographer. See monkey

Snatch – A photograph of someone who has not consented to be photographed

Spike – To drop a previously approved or commissioned story

Fun fact from a source: “Once told a PR that I’d had to spike a story we were discussing. Next time we spoke they asked me if I’d found a replacement for the story I’d ‘speared’. Always made me laugh.”

Spin – A trick of PR agents designed to influence journalists and make a story more flattering to their clients

Spin doctor – A PR agent

Splash – The page lead on the front of a newspaper

Splice – In broadcast, a merging together of different recordings

Spoof – The now-dying tabloid art of releasing a boring first edition splash before later switching to an exclusive published too late for rivals to follow up

Standfirst – Text placed between the headline of a story and the main text

Sticky In digital journalism, a story that has been attached to a prominent position on a homepage

E.g. “Can you make that story sticky, please?”

Sting – An undercover investigation by a journalist

Stock pic – A generic photograph, usually featuring non-recognisable people or models, used to illustrate stories in newspapers, magazines and online

Story – A news report or feature

Strap – See attic

Stringer – A freelance who regularly contributes to a certain news outlet

Sub 1. To fact-check, edit and rewrite a story within an outlet’s style parameters

2. Short for sub-editor

3. Short for subscription

Sub-editor – A journalist responsible for fact-checking, editing and rewriting a story to fit within an outlet’s style guide. In newspapers and magazines, sub-editors, or subs, write headlines and ensure stories fit within the spaces they are allocated

Sync – In broadcast, an interview clip


Tabloid – Traditionally, a name for newspapers shorter than broadsheets, including the red-tops (The Sun, Daily Star and Daily Mirror), and the mid-markets (Daily Mail and Daily Express). Now used to refer to their websites. In the US, a derogatory term used to describe magazines like National Enquirer as well as most of the British press

Tag – In an online CMS, tags are used to categorise stories into topic areas

Talent – In broadcast, journalists who appear on-screen or on-air

Tap dancing – From Mark Solomons: “When the editor asks you a question about a story, you don’t know the answer but you successfully bluff your way out of it.”

Think piece – An analysis often written in first person and often containing more ideas than lines

Tickle – The first part of a story

Tick tock – A story that recounts the events of an important news story chronologically

Tip – A news story suggested by a source, sometimes a journalist

Tip fee – Money paid in exchange for a tip

Title – See masthead

Tip: Using “title” as a synonym for “headline” is a sure-fire way to out yourself as an inexperienced journalist.

Tog – A photographer

Topspin – A trick of journalism to make the top line of a story more exciting than it might otherwise appear

Top line – The intro to a news story, often reflecting the angle or the peg

Top of Chartbeat – In many digital newsrooms, a phrase that indicates a story that has more readers than any other at a certain time

Traffic – A vague term used to describe the number of users currently inhabiting a news website

Trending – An online story or social media post that has been widely shared and is generating much traffic

Trisco In BBC parlance, a meeting of three people (an escalation of a disco)

Tweet – A message written and posted on social media site Twitter

Typo – A typographical error


ULAY In broadcast, underlay. See OLAY

Undercover The state of being a journalist seeking information (most likely for an investigation) without having declared your profession

Unique users – Individual people or devices, a measure used to judge a story’s popularity online


Viral A story or piece of online content that is being widely shared on social media

VO – Voice over. In broadcast, a recorded narration by a reporter

Voicer – In radio, a voice report

Vox pop – An article, or broadcast segment, solely based on interviews with randomly-selected members of the public

VT – In broadcast, a videotape


Widow – In print, when one word appears as a single line in a column. Undesirable. Especially egregious when at the top of a column

Wire – See news agency

White space – Areas of blank page in a newspaper or magazine. Usually undesirable in a newspaper, sometimes deployed artistically in a magazine

Wob – White text on a black or dark shade in a newspaper

Wrap – In radio, the last segment of a news report or package

Write-off – A news story based on a feature or interview that appears later in the same newspaper

Writer A journalist who writes words

Tip: “Writer” is a surprisingly controversial term in journalism. To advocates, the term suggests a thoughtful, genteel journalist who takes great care with words and is good at assembling them. To opponents, a “writer” is too focused on words: they should spend less time pontificating at dinner parties, and more time speaking to sources, gathering news and doing proper journalism.


Yarn – A good or long story

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