The Ultimate Glossary of Newsroom Terms

by Judith Alba in September 29th, 2019

We all know what news is, and most know how it affects our lives — but how many of us know the inner workings of a newsroom?

Well, before we can begin to understand those inner workings, it helps to know the industry-lingo. Chances are, these are words you’ve heard before, but have never officially defined. Some examples are easy to guess from context clues, but it’s much more beneficial to have a concrete definition, rather than an “almost correct” interpretation.

Whether you’re a curious citizen, an aspiring journalist, or you just accidentally ended up on our post, we built this glossary of journalism terms to bring you up-to-speed with the people inside the newsroom. We even asked current reporters and editors to help, so you may see some of their wisdom sprinkled throughout.



Shorthand for “additional,” add refers to additional text written for an article.


An analyst provides background information for a news story to help audiences understand the subject matter more fully.

Note: Analysts do not share opinions as part of their work, and should not be mistaken for commentators (see below), although that is a common misunderstanding.


This term refers to the credit given to the source of a quote or piece of information referenced in an article. The term is not limited to quotes given to the journalist from interviewees. Court documents, scientific studies, and transcribed speeches are all examples of sources that require attribution.

For more information on attributable and non-attributable sources, see “off the record,” “on background,” or “on the record,” below.

Anonymous Source

As the name suggests, an anonymous source is an interviewee that has requested to obscure their identity in a published article. This type of secrecy can raise skepticism from readers since they cannot determine the source’s credibility for themselves — emphasizing the importance of attribution.

Can readers trust anonymous sources?

Some readers are also confused by the term, mistakenly interpreting “anonymous” to mean that even the reporter does not know his or her source’s identity, which is not true. Some readers believe that sources are more likely to lie if they are granted the option of anonymity, but many journalists find that this is not the case. Anonymity allows sources to be more honest, especially if they are public figures who could get in trouble for revealing sensitive information. In actuality, the use of a non-attributable source goes through a strict approval process, usually signed-off by a high-ranking editor, who also knows the interviewee’s identity.

AP Style

The Associated Press Style Guide outlines the industry-standard expectations on grammar, numeral formatting, and the use of common words or phrases.

To young journalism students especially, this might seem nit-picky, but submitting articles that don’t adhere to the AP style shows a lack of professionalism. College students, don’t be so quick to sell your copy at the end of the semester; even seasoned journalists keep their stylebooks on hand to reference while working on assignments.



A newspaper’s banner is pretty hard to miss. This attention-grabbing headline features the largest font on the page and spans the entire width of the paper. Sometimes, the words banner and masthead (see below) are used interchangeably, which is a common misunderstanding. To differentiate between the two, just remember that the banner refers to the front-page news headline of the day, and uses a much larger font.

Also known as a line, ribbon, screamer, or streamer.

Beat Reporting

A beat is a reporter’s specific area of focus on a particular issue, sector, organization, or institution. This can be as general as “politics,” “business,” or “environmental science,” or as specific as an individual politician, company, or area of research. Beats are typically interpreted and adapted to meet the needs of a publication.

“As a climate and environment reporter at HuffPost, a political news website, I write primarily about policy proposals and political campaigns centered on global warming. But I also write about energy companies, scientific research, post-disaster recovery and more."

Contributed By: Alexander C. Kaufman, Climate Reporter at The Huffington Post


Though this news story may have once been based on a real event, the details have been grossly sensationalized (see below) to the point where it can no longer be considered the truth.

Below the Fold

The term comes from traditional newspaper publishing when there was an actual physical fold in the middle of the paper. The most important news typically printed "above the fold," aka anything that would be seen even while the paper was folded, often on newsstands. This, naturally, served as the inspiration for our newsletter!

In a digital world, the term has continued, referring to the section of a web page that is only visible after scrolling down. Similarly, all content visible upon landing on a webpage is then "above the fold."


Breaking News

Newsworthy events can happen at any moment, and the initial coverage of those events is referred to as “breaking news.” Breaking News teams operate on very short deadlines, covering these events as they unfold, in an effort to be the first to publish the most recent information. Due to the immediacy of this coverage, articles may include inaccurate information that requires correction at a later date.

In broadcast journalism (see below) specifically, breaking news refers to unexpected events that are considered important enough to interrupt the network’s regularly scheduled program.

Note: Newly received information regarding these stories are referred to as “breaks.”


A “bright” refers to a short, quirky news story, usually between one and three paragraphs in length.

Also known as an odd.

Broadcast Journalism

Broadcast journalism is an umbrella term for the distribution of news content through electrical means, such as radio, television, and the Internet.


A broadsheet refers to one of the two most common newspaper formats. These large papers usually run 29.5 by 23.5 inches in length. If you’ve ever seen an older relative read a newspaper large enough to conceal the top half of his or her body, that person is probably holding a broadsheet.

For the second most common print newspaper, see tabloid below.


The term bulldog refers to an early edition of a newspaper, usually, the first of the day. Bulldog editions were typically printed and sold to distributors the night before, to be sold first thing in the morning.

The term’s origin is unknown, but experts, such as famous Czech journalist Richard Weiner, believe it refers to the competitive nature of the 19th-century news industry, describing newspapers fighting like bulldogs to make their deadlines and outscoop each other.


This is the line just below the hed/headline (see below) and the dek (see below) that attributes the piece to a writer.

“It’s critical to identify who wrote and reported the story and credit them for their efforts. It’s also incredibly important to get it correct — my last name has been misspelled in print more times than I can count (it’s K-H-A-N not K-A-H-N, editors!), and I still remember the sucker-punch I felt when I eagerly opened a major magazine where I had a story published early in my career, only to see they’d spelled my first name wrong. My own byline, “by Sarah Khan,” has become something of a personal brand for me — I use it for my websiteTwitter, and Instagram, and friends end up calling me by my full name now too!”

Contributed By: Sarah Khan, Travel Writer



Newspaper circulation refers to the number of copies distributed during the day. This term is more commonly associated with print media, but has been adapted for the digital age to include online web traffic.


The goal for this type of web content is to attract as many viewers or “clickthroughs” as possible. The quality of the content is unimportant — the title does all the heavy lifting. Clickbait creators are focused on generating ad revenue based on those clicks, installing malware or other viruses, or spreading fake news stories to influence public opinion.


Unlike the average reporter, a columnist writes pieces that express his or her opinions on a particular subject and allow their personality to show through their work. More often than not, column writing features a more humorous slant (see below).


Commentators provide opinionated coverage on news events or topical issues, separating them from the objective, unbiased work produced by reporters or analysts (see above) — who provide context to help explain facts without stating an opinion. This term usually refers to sports or political coverage.

Confirmation Bias

Sometimes, editors/reporters write news with a slant (see below) that will appeal to their audience, because it conforms to their established views/biases. Fox and MSNBC have built their success on confirmation bias.

Contributed By: Mike Nikitas, Former Radio and TV Journalist of 36 years


Copy refers to the written text and images that make up an article.


A correspondent is a journalist who covers a particular beat (see above) or reports from the location of critical news events. One can be a sports correspondent, a White House correspondent, a foreign correspondent, etc. There isn't much of a difference between the job responsibilities of a reporter versus a correspondent, but the distinction implies that the correspondent lives somewhere outside of the organization's headquarters, or is constantly traveling to the site of the latest news story.

Crony Journalism

This practice refers to heavily biased coverage that overlooks or downplays news that reflects poorly on the reporter’s personal contacts.


As a verb, “to cut” refers to the act of deleting written copy. It can also refer to an image or photograph used in the article.


Cutline refers to the caption underneath an image.



This is the first line of an article that states the time and location during which the story takes place.


The dek is a 1-2 sentence summary of the article below. You can usually spot the dek underneath the headline (see below) and byline (see above), formatted using a smaller font to differentiate from the article’s beginning sentences.

Also known as a subhead/subhed.



This is an opinionated article written by an editor at a news organization, which represents the organization’s view on a particular subject.

Compare with op-ed below.


Adopted into colloquial journalism and typically used in verb form, “efforting” describes incidents when journalists are attempting to line up TV coverage (usually of breaking news) but aren’t sure what will happen next.

Usage by assignment desk or managing editor to producer, writer or anchor: “Uh, We’re efforting Jeff live from the scene for the A block at 5. Not sure if he’s there yet. We’ll get back to you.”

Contributed By: Mike Nikitas, Former Radio and TV Journalist of 36 years


A news or press embargo prevents publishers from releasing sensitive information before a designated release date. The press are often given advance notice on product releases, government-sanctioned announcements, or other news-worthy occurrences, so they can publish articles as soon as the information is released.

See “Hold for Release” below.


Similar to a feature, this story covers a topic that is always relevant and not based on news of the day.

Contributed By: Ellen Minkin, Former TV News Producer CBS Los Angeles


An exclusive refers to a news story that has been given to one specific publication. These articles are highly valuable, since these stories can’t be found anywhere else on the market.

What happens when you miss out on an exclusive scoop?

In his fifth year, The Quibbler published an exclusive interview with Harry Potter about the night he saw Voldemort return. The Daily Prophet missed out on the story because the writers were too busy blaspheming him at every opportunity. Their loss! The Quibbler's profits skyrocketed, allowing the Lovegoods to spend their summer holiday abroad, tracking the elusive (possibly fictional) Crumple-Horned Snorkack.



Fact-checking refers to the process of verifying the information stated in an article. Integrity represents one of the core values of journalism ethics, and maintaining it is essential to a news outlet’s reputation.

Fake News

According to BuzzFeed News editor and unintentional namer of the termCraig Silverman, fake news refers to “completely false information that was created and spread for profit.” It has since taken on a more fluid meaning, becoming a catch-all term for the rapidly spreading misinformation.

Check out our post to learn more about how fake news spreads online.


Feature articles are long-form human-interest pieces that focus more on creating emotional narratives, rather than informing readers about the big news stories of the day.

Compare to hard news below.


Flack is an informal term for a press agent or promoter, particularly one with some experience on the subject being covered. The term can be used as a verb, “to flack” for something or someone.

Contributed By: Jeffrey Fleishman, Arts & Film Writer at The LA Times

First Amendment Rights of the Press

The U.S. Constitution protects the right for news outlets to freely disseminate information and opinions to the masses. This allows journalists to act as watchdogs over government officials and other influential newsmakers.


A fixer is an associate, typically a local journalist, who helps arrange meetings and travel, translate interviews, and report stories with foreign correspondents.

Contributed By: Jeffrey Fleishman, Arts & Film Writer at The LA Times

Freedom of Information Act (F.O.I.A.)

This law, enacted in 1967, requires federal agencies to disclose public information upon formal request (unless it falls under the exemptions of “personal privacy, national security, [or] law enforcement.”) Although F.O.I.A. (pronounced: "FOY-uh") requests are frequently made by journalists, anyone can submit one.

Usage by investigative reporter to editor: “I’ve submitted three FOIA’s on this story so far but I’ve got nothing, dammit!

Contributed By: Mike Nikitas, Former Radio and TV Journalist of 36 years



This short-hand simply refers to a shortened version of the word “paragraph.”


Hard News

Certain news stories, particularly ones related to politics, war, terrorism, or natural disasters, require immediate coverage. These news articles cut straight to the facts, only reporting the most important information needed to understand the story.

For these pieces, writers tend to use the inverted pyramid format (see below) which prioritizes the most important facts at the top of the piece, and the least important ones toward the end. This directly contrasts the writing style used for features (see above), which flesh out more details and employ story-telling techniques seen in novels to create a more immersive reading experience.

Also known as straight news.


The hed refers to the title of the news story. Easy peasy.

"Hold For Release" (H.F.R.)

Material on “H.F.R.” can not be published by the news outlet before an agreed-upon release deadline.

See embargo above.

"Hold For Orders" (H.F.O.s)

Sometimes, articles are drafted months in advance, in anticipation of events to come. These “Hold For Orders” (H.F.O.s) typically cover scheduled events such as elections and sports games, but they can also be written in anticipation of newsworthy occurrences. Reporters often draft multiple versions of these articles, preparing for all possible outcomes.

How does one predict what will happen next?

The New York Times published a 1,000+ word article about the firing of Jeff Sessions a day after it happened. How did they finish the piece so quickly? Well, NYT correspondent Peter Baker first drafted the story 16 months before it happened.

Hyperlocal News

Hyperlocal news covers extremely small geographic areas in the U.S. and is typically produced by volunteers or students. For instance, The Local, founded by The New York Times, covers news stories in the East Village and Fort Greene & Clinton Hill.

Also known as microlocal journalism.


An insert refers to advertisements placed in between the copy within an article.

Inverted Pyramid

In news writing, the inverted pyramid represents a structural technique that states the most important information at the beginning of the article and lists supplementary details further down. The advantages of this structure are:

  • Readers don’t have to finish the full article to be fully informed.
  • If a draft has to get cut during editing, writers can simply chop off the last few lines since they are the least relevant to the story.

Investigative journalism

Investigative journalism refers to reporting that reveals hidden scandals and other closeted skeletons. These pieces usually demand more time and research than other news stories, since they involve unearthing information that powerful figures have gone to great lengths to keep secret.



A kicker essentially refers to a witty phrase or remark that catches a reader’s attention. You can find good kickers sprinkled throughout a news article, but they are most commonly found:

  • Right above the headline (see above), usually written in a different typeface to distinguish between the two.
  • Next to an image's cutline (see above).
  • In the last line of the story (also known as a tailpiece).


In the newsroom, this term refers to the act of deleting a section of copy (see above) or an entire news story.

Also known as “to spike.



This is the first line/sentence in a news story, which tells the viewer/reader/listener the most important information.

Usage by editor to writer: “What is this story about? You buried the lead. Rewrite it.

Contributed By: Mike Nikitas, Former Radio and TV Journalist of 36 years


Libel, a written form of defamation, refers to the publishing of false statements to damage a person or organization’s reputation. The First Amendment Rights of the Press (see above) protects reporters from government censorship, allowing them to fulfill their roles as watchdogs over powerful public figures. However, freedom of the press does not give journalists free-reign to publish outright lies about people or organizations they dislike.

All journalists should understand the basics of libel law, especially if they are publishing news stories that reveal public scandals or other PR-coverups. Airtight reporting is essentially the best libel defense; if a journalist can prove that their reporting was 100% credible, they cannot be sued for spreading lies.


See banner above.


A literal is simply another word for a typo or spelling mistake.



A masthead can refer to one of two things:

  1. A logo featuring the newspaper's name, usually positioned at the top of the front page. This is also known as a nameplate, and should not be confused with banner (see above), which refers to the much larger, eye-catching headline that spans the width of the newspaper.
  2. A page within a newsletter or magazine that lists the publication's name, owner, management team, subscription rates, and contact information.

Media/News/Press Conference

This is an event organized by a corporation, business, or government institution, to officially share new information or take questions from the media.

Also known as a presser.

Media/News/Press Release

This is an official document sent by a corporation, business, or government office to the news media, meant to be used as a basis for a news article.

Microlocal Journalism

See hyperlocal news above.


A morgue refers to a library of back issues or news clippings stored within a news building.



See masthead above.

Native Advertising

This term refers to sponsored content written to resemble other editorial pieces in the publication.

News/Press Agency

News agencies collect and distribute stories to publishers subscribed to their service. The “big four” newsgathering agencies — Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters, and United Press International — account for 90% of the world’s foreign news coverage.

Also known as a press association or wire service.

"Not For Attribution" 

This term refers to information that a reporter receives, but is not allowed to credit to a source. The reporter is permitted to share the information given, and may even quote their source directly, as long as their identity remains secret. Usually, sources are referred to by their occupation or a descriptor that showcases their expertise on the subject.

Compare with "on backgroundbelow.


The nutgraf is the paragraph — usually right after the lede (see above) — briefly describes the most important details of the story (“in a nutshell”).



See bright above.

"On Background"

When a source agrees to go “on background” for a story, the reporter is permitted to share the information given, as long as the source is not mentioned by name or directly quoted. 

Some journalists consider this term to be synonymous with "not for attribution" (see above) but others make the distinction that information given "on background" should not be quoted verbatim in the publication.

"Off The Record"

Information shared off-the-record should never be shared publicly or credited to the source. While this isn’t an ideal agreement for reporters, off-the-record conversations can still:

  • offer background information to help frame a story,
  • build relationships with influential people and give reporters a sense of their true character.

"On The Record"

This is an agreement, verbal or otherwise, between source and reporter, stating that the discussed topics are publishable and can be attributed explicitly to the source.

Contributed By: Alexander C. Kaufman, Climate Reporter at The Huffington Post


This is an opinion piece written by a guest writer. The term has carried over from print media: Op-eds were printed on the page opposite from the editorials — hence the short-hand.


An overnight is a type of story that is written the night before it is published.


Pack Journalism

Pack journalism describes instances where journalists from different news outlets produce almost identical reports on the same story. This is especially common when multiple journalists cover the same event, but it can also happen when these journalists rely on the same sources for information.

Where does "pack journalism" come from?

The term was first coined in Timothy Crouse’s book, The Boys on the Busto describe certain behaviors he saw from journalists covering the 1972 presidential election. Reporters on the trail habitually compared notes with their peers, and as a result of this collaboration, all of their individual stories blended together since they used the same pieces of information.


A paywall is an online barrier that requires users to purchase a subscription to access the site’s content. Most major news publications (NYT, Washington Post, etc.) have adopted paywalls as a replacement for declining ad revenue.

Click here to learn more about how news consumers are responding to the growing prevalence of paywalls and paid news subscriptions.


Plagiarism refers to the unethical practice of publishing another writer’s words or ideas without crediting them.


A podcast is a digital audio file, usually produced as part of a series, publicly available for download and listening.

According to the Reuters Digital News Report, 54% of Americans aged 18-24 have listened to a podcast in the last month. News-centric podcasts appeal to users because the longer run-time allows for deeper analysis of news stories.

Political Endorsement

It may seem odd to see a news outlet declaring its support for a political candidate, and in fact, the practice has become less popular over the 20th century. The largest news publications (ex: NYT, USA Today, WSJgenerally abstain from publishing political endorsements — the practice is much more popular with smaller publications.

Press Association

See news/press agency above.


See media/news/press conference above.

Press Note

Similar to a press release (see above), a press note is a brief document that provides important need-to-know information to readers, usually regarding urgent government news. Press notes are shorter than press releases and are distributed to the general public, not just to news publishers.

Print Journalism

Print journalism refers to the practice of reporting and disseminating news stories through newspapers and magazines.


A pundit is a knowledgeable representative of a particular subject, who often makes media appearances to express their opinions. This word is popularly used in reference to politics.

Puff Piece/Puffery

This type of story gives high praise to a person or organization while ignoring any criticism or negative news associated with them.



Retraction refers to the act of withdrawing inaccurate information in a story after it has been published. Although most news outlets have strict fact-checking processes in place to avoid these inaccuracies, sometimes false information slips through the cracks. This is especially common with breaking news (see above) stories, since reporters may publish incorrect information, in their haste to meet their short deadlines.


See banner above.


This term refers to a piece that corrects errors published in a previous article but is written in a way that does not publicly take responsibility for those prior errors.

Running Story

A running story refers to a major event that unfolds over an extended period.



A scoop refers to information that a news outlet either discovers or obtains before its competitors can hear about it.


See banner above.


Sensationalism describes the act of exaggerating details in a news story to attract viewers. This tactic is often used by peddlers of clickbait (see above) web content and fake news (see above).

See beat-up above and yellow journalism below.


This term describes a writing style that appeals to a specific audience or fits a particular publication (ex: formal vs informal; liberal vs conservative).

Soft News

Less time-sensitive stories, such as human-interest pieces and entertainment news, are considered soft news.

Compare with hard news above.


SOT is a shorthand for "Sound on Tape," referring to a soundbite used in a broadcast news story.

Contributed By: Ellen Minkin, TV News Producer CBS Los Angeles


See kill above.


See deck/dek above.

Straight News

See hard news above.


See banner above.


A stringer is a freelance reporter who is paid based on the length of their pieces.


Regarding journalism, syndication refers to the selling of published news material to be used by other news outlets.

Syndicate can be used as a noun, referring to an organization that sells news materials, or as a verb, describing the act of selling these materials.



Tabloids are often considered synonymous with celebrity gossip magazines . . . which is half-true. You would be correct in saying that tabloid journalism refers to coverage of these sensational news topics, but the word tabloid itself defines the format of a particular newspaper, characterized by smaller pages, usually half the size of the standard broadsheet (see above)which are folded/stapled together.


See kicker above.


A tip refers to information given to a journalist (usually “off the record”) about a possible news story.

Think Piece

This type of opinionated article showcases a writer’s personal views about a news event or a socially relevant topic. The most powerful think pieces present a unique perspective or argument and organize information in a way that effectively defends that perspective.

Contributed By: Jeffrey Fleishman, Arts & Film Writer at The LA Times


Voiceover (V.O.)

Voiceover describes an editing technique where the anchor/reporter reads over video.  

"In broadcast news, producers call for different types of stories and elements. VO copy is usually 15-40 seconds long and one of the most common elements in a newscast."

Contributed By: Ellen Minkin, TV News Producer CBS Los Angeles


Wire Service

See news agency above.


Yellow Journalism

The era of yellow journalism refers to the rivalry between Joseph's Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal, which was characterized by their use of sensationalized (sometimes fabricated) news stories to boost readership.

Why is it called Yellow Journalism?

Out of all the colors, why does yellow describe this era of hyperbolic, melodramatic news writing? During the 1890s, William Randolph Hearst poached staff members from his rival, Joseph Pulitzer, including a cartoonist named Richard F. Outcault, who was best known for his comic series, The Yellow Kid. 

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