Newspapers' Depressing Internal Lingo


18 Responses to “Newspapers' Depressing Internal Lingo”

  1. Inkstain says:

    Let us not forget “busted hed”

  2. invisibelle says:

    The one that struck me the most in journalism school was “If it bleeds, it leads.” Terrible, but true.

  3. papiermeister says:

    I like this thread. I have lived with these terms my whole life (dad was a newsman, Grampa a lithographer and I have far too many years in printing to want to disclose). I have never given it much thought, but seeing them all listed together and taken as a whole, they do seem a bit dark. Then again, printing is the “black art” practiced by secretive journeymen and their apprentices the “printer’s devils”.

    One term I didn’t see mentioned, and I may be dating myself here, from the days of hot type – the hellbox – a box that sat behind the Linotype for miscast or cast-off lead slugs, held there until being remelted in the pot.

  4. cmuwriter says:

    As well as cutline. But seriously, I think you’re reaching with the jargon thing.

  5. LYNDON says:

    Yeah, many of those are printer’s terms.

    IAMAP but off the top of my head the most virtuous press jargon I can think of is (something like) ‘priests’ and ‘friars’.

    Which, it might well be noted, refer to mistakes – particular kinds of accidental ink blotch.

  6. gollux says:

    Nothing is as useless as yesterday’s news and being dead, it goes to the morgue. Perfectly applied to where you store old newspapers.

  7. Agies says:

    Of course most of this is not exclusive to newspaper printing but to the entire print design industry.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I once worked at a paper that tried to use “library” instead of “morgue” and the reporters, rightly, simply refused to go along.

    Call them whatever bloodless term you want to come up with, but I, for one, will continue to kill widows and orphans.

  9. gouldina says:

    I’ve always been intrigued by the use of magical terms in computer science such as daemon processes and invoking commands etc but I’m a bit divided as to whether this is because of the imagery or because a lot of IT people read fantasy novels. Perhaps journalists (and/or printers) read too much hard-boiled detective fiction. Just a thought.

  10. krosebud84 says:

    Print Design in general has some pretty dark terms.

    Colle+Mcvoy made an online game last year, where they showed you an illustration, and you had to find all of the dark design terms in it.

    They have since taken the game offline, but you can see the illustration here: ,
    or just google “Design not for the faint of heart”

    It’s actually a pretty cool piece, they sold a limited run of prints of the illustration with all the answers on the back.

  11. kjb says:

    I believe you mean “flagging future” rather than “fledgling future.” Does anyone know the roots of the depressing nature of newspapers’/printers’ jargon?

  12. hallpass says:

    On one of my first nights working in a newsroom, a copy editor was overheard muttering something to the effect of, “I wish someone would die, damnint.”

    She needed one more obit to make the page fit nicely.

  13. andyhavens says:

    And don’t forget the happy-happy printing terms: bleed, knock-out, burn, crop, gutter, flood, die, gang, ream, strip… good times and ink fumes.

  14. ekey says:

    The editor in chief of my old paper used to compare working in the newsroom to being trapped in a collapsed mine — and how we all had to wait for the internet rescue crew to save us all…


  15. buddy66 says:

    spike. spiked.

  16. Tdawwg says:

    Err, you’re rather reaching for some of these. Gutter for example, is simply a channel for something, usually liquid; it’s use in English dates at least as far back as ca. 1300. So the later sense of gutter–as in “Don’t wind up living in the gutter”–the one you’re projecting negative feelings onto, isn’t really the primary semantic sense from which the printing gutter derives, nor is it particularly negative: simply a water channel running along the side of the street.

    Same with beat, which simply references a policeman’s beat, which in turn derives from the rhythmic, periodic beating of their feet as they walk their wonted rounds: nothing negative in that, surely. The OED does record a sense of beat as “A success scored against rivals by a reporter or newspaper; an item of news secured and published in advance of competitors,” but this doesn’t seem to be the one you’re referencing: I take you to mean generally one’s wonted subject as a reporter.

    Words have histories and meanings: the senses we can apply to them are quite often the latest ones, and often inaccurate as to the primary and original senses of the word. Nice try, though!

  17. Takuan says:

    what’s the dirtiest sentence you can compose in newspaper jargon?

  18. airship says:

    In my day, we also had slugs & bullets, breaks, bugs, whips, bulldogs, and reefers. And at the end of the day, everything we did had to be justified.

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