Journalism Glossary

This is an informal compiled glossary of journalism terms culled from Wikipedia, the Columbia Encyclopedia, the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia,, Saskatchewan Education, Google search and numerous other sources online.

Advertisement: the promotion of a product or service.

Advertising manager: the person who oversees the sales representatives who sell space to advertisers, and ensures that ads are in the appropriate section.

Advertorial: an advertisement section in a magazine that looks like an article or a feature.

Advocacy journalism: a style of journalism in which a reporter takes sides in controversial issues and develops a point of view. It is the opposite of mainstream journalism, in which reporters are expected to be objective.

Agenda-setting: a theory of mass communication suggesting news media influence audiences through the choice of stories to cover and space or time given them; thus, media determine which issues people should think about.

Ambush journalism: aggressive tactics practiced by journalists who suddenly confront and question people who otherwise do not wish to speak to a journalist.

Anchors: newscasters who host news broadcasts.

Angle: particular emphasis of a media presentation, sometimes called a slant

Articles: stories written about news topics that are considered notable by the editors of a publication.

Attribution: credit given to who said what or the source of facts

B-roll: video images shot specifically to be used over a reporter's words to illustrate the news event or story, to cover up audio edits of quotes (to avoid the jerking head effect), or to cover up bad shots (out of focus, poorly lighted, etc.)

Background: information that is not intended for publication

Bias: a position that is partial or slanted

Body: the main part or central information of a news story following the lead.

Broadcast feature: longer than usual broadcast news story that gives reporters 5-25 minutes (compared to usual 30-60 seconds) to develop a deeper look at a news event, trend, or individual; the broadcast equivalent of a newspaper feature story; also known as "television magazine piece" or radio feature

By-line: the name of the reporter

Cable news channels: cable TV broadcasters of news, documentaries and commentary.

Canadian press: National news agency set up by the daily newspapers of Canada to exchange news among themselves and with international news agencies

Caption: descriptive copy which accompanies a photograph or graphic

Celebrity journalism: also known as people journalism, it focuses on the personal lives of celebrities, including movie and stage actors, musical artists, models and photographers, sports figures, and notable people in the entertainment industry, as well as people who seek attention, such as politicians, and people thrust into the attention of the public, such as people who do something newsworthy.

Censorship: governmental restriction or other repression of individual journalists and non-government media. Press freedom is protected in the United States and some other nations, while few formal democracies and no authoritarian governments make provision for protection of press freedom.

Checkbook Journalism: journalists paying a person or organization for a news story.

Citizen journalist: the rapid rise of Internet technology, in particular blogging, tweeting and social networking, have empowered persons without professional training to function sometimes as journalists feeding information to mass media. These practitioners now are known as a distinct category -- citizen journalists.

Classified ads: short, direct text ads for products and services, which clearly indicate what is being advertised, the price, where, and how the advertiser can be contacted

Clips: news films or videos ranging in length from a few seconds to as long as 10 minutes.

Column: an article in which a writer or columnist gives an opinion on a topic

Commercial: an advertisement that is presented on television, radio, or film

Conclusion: the last sentence or last few sentences of a story; the end of the story.

Conflict of interest: the conflict that is created when a writer allows personal interests (friendship, family, business connections, etc.) to influence the outcome of the story

Copy: the words of an article, news story, book, broadcast writing, including commercials; any written material intended for publication, including advertising

Copyreader: the person who "proofreads" copy as it comes in, checking for spelling, punctuation, accuracy of style, and clarity

Credibility: believability of a writer or publication.

Date line: the place the story was filed.

Deck: a smaller headline which comes between the headline and the story.

Display ads: ads that include a visual image to advertise a product or service.

Editor: the person who "edits" a story by revising and polishing; the person whose job is to approve copy when it comes in and to make decisions about what is published in a newspaper or magazine.

Editorial: an article expressing a newspaper or magazine owner's or editor's position on an issue.

Facts sheet: a page of significant information prepared by Public Relations people to help news media in covering a special event.

FAQ: a list of questions that are frequently asked and their answers.

Feature articles: longer forms of news writing; topics covered in depth; sometimes the main article on the front page of a newspaper, or the cover story in a magazine.

Feature writing: journalistic writing covering people, places and events in greater depth and with less timeliness than an immediate hard news story.

Five Ws and H: the primary questions a news story answers -- Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?

Gatekeepers: people who determine what will be printed, broadcast, produced, or consumed in the mass media.

Gobbledygook: language that is unnecessarily complicated, unclear, wordy, or includes jargon.

Gonzo journalism: a type of journalism popularized by Hunter S. Thompson in the 1970s. It was characterized by a punchy style, rough language, and a disregard for conventional journalistic writing forms and customs. The traditional objectivity of the journalist was given up through immersion in the story.

Gutter: narrow margin of white space in the center area in a magazine, newspaper, or book, where two pages meet.

Hard news: immediate factual accounts of important events, often appearing first online, in a broadcast or in a newspaper.

Headline: the "title" of a newspaper or magazine story.

Human interest story: a story that focuses on the human side of news and often appeals to the readers' emotion.

In-depth: a news story that is comprehensive, thorough and detailed.

Internet: a global network of interconnected computers using a standard TCP/IP protocol to serve billions of users.

Inverted pyramid: the structure of a news story which places the important facts at the beginning and less important facts and details at the end, enabling the editor to cut bottom portion of the story if space is required.

Investigative journalism: a story that requires a great amount of research digging and hard work to come up with facts that might be hidden, buried, or obscured by people who have a vested interest in keeping those facts from being published; reporters research, investigate and expose unethical, immoral, and illegal behavior by individuals, businesses and government agencies.

J-School: journalism school; the importance of journalism in society is demonstrated by the establishment of professional schools of journalism at most of the world's leading universities.

Jargon: any overly obscure, technical, or bureaucratic words that would not be used in everyday language

Jazz journalism: the journalism fashion of the roaring twenties named for its energetic style and illustrated tabloid layout.

Journalese: a type of jargon used by newspaper writers: language used by journalists that would never be used in everyday speech.

Journalism: the craft of conveying news, descriptive material and opinion via a widening spectrum of media; the collection and periodic publication or transmission of news through media such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, books the Internet, and even the mobile telephone.

Journalists: writers, editors, photographers, videographers, broadcast presenters, producers and others who are the purveyors of information and opinion in contemporary mass society.

Journalistic: having the characteristics of journalism writing. Jump line: line of type at the bottom of a column which directs the reader to somewhere else in the paper where the story is completed, allowing more space for stories to begin on the front page

Kicker: an ending that finishes a story with a climax, surprise, or punch line

Layout editor: the person who begins the layout plan, considering things like placement and amount of space allotted to news and advertising copy, graphics, photos, and symbols

Lead: the first sentence or first few sentences of a story

Libel: publishing in print (or other media) false information that identifies and deframes an individual

Literary journalism: creative narrative nonfiction that uses literary styles and techniques to create fairly accurate accounts.

Managing editor: the person who co-ordinates all news departments by collecting all copy and ensuring that all instructions for printer or typist are clear and consistent; the person who meets and consults with the staff to make a plan

Masthead: information about a newspaper or magazine on its editorial page; sometimes the banner at the top of the front page which identifies the newspaper and the date of publication

Media relations: a function of public relations that involves dealing with the communications media in seeking publicity for, or responding to media interest in, an organization

Morgue: newsroom library

Nameplate: The title of a newspaper, newsletter or magazine on the front page or cover in the periodical's logotype style, often including the publication date and place of publication.

New Journalism: an unconventional writing style popularized in the 1960s by Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer using the techniques of fictional story-telling and characterization when writing nonfiction stories.

News: information about recent and important events. Newscasters: broadcast news information in newscasts from television stations and networks.

Newspaper styles: styles of various newspapers including dailies, tabloids, and weeklies

Newsspeak: language that distorts, confuses, or hides reality

Newswriter: a journalist who gathers and disseminates information about current events, people, places, trends and issues.

News writing: the prose writing style used for news reporting in media such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television, books and the Internet.

Off the record: something a source does not want atributed in a news story

Op-ed page: a page in a newspaper that is opposite the editorial page, and contains columns, articles, letters for readers, and other items expressing opinions

Pack journalism: reporters relying on each other for news tips and often dependent on a single source for information

Package: a completed television news story on tape, which is edited before a news show goes on air and contains reporter's stand-ups, narration over images, and an out-cue for the anchor to start speaking at the end of the tape

Paraphrase: an indirect quote or summary of the words the news maker said

Photos: still images which communicate the photojournalist's angle or perceived reality

Pix: short for pictures

Plagiarism: using the work of another person (both written words and intellectual property) and calling that work your own

Print Journalism: the practice of journalism in newspapers, magazines and other hard-copy printed publications.

Professional journalism: a form of news reporting which developed in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, along with formal schools of journalism which arose at major universities.

Public affairs: various activities and communications that organizations undertake to monitor, evaluate, influence, and adjust to the attitudes, opinions, and behaviors of groups or individuals who constitute their publics.

Public relations: PR, communication by a person or an organization intending to create a favorable image.

Reporters: the people who gather facts for the stories they are assigned to write

Rules: lines used to separate one story from another on a newspaper page

Science journalism: reporters convey news information on science topics to the public.

Science journalists: reporters who understand and interpret detailed, technical information and jargon and write news stories about them so they will be interesting to readers.

Screens: shaded areas of copy in a newspaper

Sidebar: a column of copy and/or graphics which appears on the page of a magazine or newspaper to communicate information about the story or contents of the paper

Slander: similar to libel, but spoken instead of published

Soft news: journalistic news stories that are interesting, but of less immediacy than hard news, focusing in greater depth on people, places and events highlighting facts and information from interviews, observation, and research.

Sound bite: the videotaped quote in television news

Source: a person who talks to a reporter on the record, for attribution in a news story

Spin: hidden slant of a press source, which usually casts the client in a positive light

Sports journalism: covers human athletic competition in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, books and the Internet. Some don't consider sports journalism to be true journalism, but the prominence of sports in Western culture has justified the attention of journalists to not just the competitive events in sports, but also to athletes and the business of sports.

Sportscasters: reporters who cover sports events, write about them, and deliver that news on the air.

Stand-up: a reporter's appearance in a TV news story; usually a head and shoulders shot which features the reporter talking into a microphone at the scene of the news event, often used as a transition, or at the beginning or ending

Style: conformity of language use by all writers in a publication (e.g., AP style is conformity to the rules of language according to the Associated Press)

Summary lead: the traditional journalism tool used to start off most hard news stories; the first few sentences of a news story which usually summarizes the event and answers the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Super: a video effect that allows the television station to print and superimpose the name of a news source over his or her image when the source is shown talking in a news story

Tabloid: technically, a publication half the size of a standard newspaper page; but commonly, any newspaper that is splashy and heavily illustrated; a "supermarket" tabloid stresses dramatic stories, often about sensational subjects

Target audience: a specific group of people that media producers or advertisers want to reach

Television journalism: over-the-air and cable transmission of news stories enhanced by sound and video images.

Transition: a rhetorical device used in writing to move the story smoothly from one set of ideas to the next by finding a way to connect the ideas logically

Trend story: a feature story that focuses on the current fads, directions, tendencies, and inclinations of society

Video press release: a press release for television, prepared on tape, complete with images and sound which can be used by the news media without additional permission or editing

Voice: a writer's development of distinctive characteristics and idiosyncrasies of language use that make his or her writing as easily recognizable as the inflections, tone, and pronunciation of speech that make a person's vocalized speech pat terns distinctive

Weathercasters; reporters who relate current weather conditions and forecast future conditions. Some are trained meteorologists .

Wire services: news gathering and delivery services that provide news from around the world to publications that subscribe for a fee. Best known are the Associated Press, Reuters, United Press International, Agence France-Presse and Canadian Press. Wire services are co-operatives that share news stories among members.

World Wide Web: a large directory of information on the Internet

Yellow journalism: inflammatory publication tactics attributed to newspaperman William Randolph Hearst and others in drumming up support for war against Spain in the 1890s. Today, it is aggressive, lurid and irresponsible journalism.

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© 2011 Dr. Anthony Curtis, Mass Communication Dept., University of North Carolina at Pembroke    e-mail    home page