What’s with the symbols in today’s paper?
In the transition from physical newsprint to digital media, it seems that some things have been lost in translation.
If you’re reading this in print, then you likely know that this is an editorial, because it’s here. You know it’s different from a column, or letter to the editor, because you can also see those on the next page.
Digital media has complicated this: when a story pops up in your newsfeed without context, it might be difficult to tell right away whether it’s an article, a column or—these days—sponsored content, also known as native advertising. That can be dangerous.
People who make newspapers—us—have assumed too much about what people know about what we do. At the New York Press Association Spring Convention several TRR staffers attended last month, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan gave those gathered some sound advice: If local newspapers want to reconnect with our readers, we need to better explain our craft.
So we are. Below is a key and a glossary of terms to help you navigate the labels we’ve placed throughout the paper. Some readers may consider this a refresher on newspaper lingo, while others may learn something they never knew—some of us certainly did.
P.S. Welcome to our 10 new subscribers. We hope you find this helpful.
The order of terms is not alphabetical, but follows the print layout of TRR from front to back.
- Flag or nameplate: The stylized banner on the home page that identifies the name of the publication. Also at the top of page one you will find the volume and issue number and date of its publication.
- Reefer bar: Teasers to stories on the website. Ours are found on the home page on the left side.
- A1: Not the steak sauce. A1 refers to the front page of a paper, and is used to denote the first page of the “A” section. This also refers to the most important story in the paper, as determined by an editor. In digital media, A1 stories are usually found on the homepage in the upper left corner.
- Byline: The author’s name on a story, usually right under the headline.
- Dateline: The line at the beginning of the story noting the place, and sometimes the date, that the report takes place. (CALLICOON, NY —)
- Hard news: Factual news stories without the writer’s opinion. Pages 1 through 5 in TRR or in the 'news' section on our website.
- Briefs: Informational short news summaries. These can be found in the “in brief” sections of TRR.
- Editorial: A typically unsigned (no byline) column representing the opinion of the paper’s editorial board. The editorial is not always representative of the opinion of the writer. It usually takes the place of this guide.
- Letters to the editor: Before the online comment section existed, the only way for readers to interact with editors and reporters in a public way was by writing a letter to the editor. Letters are usually topical and relate to a story in a previous edition of the paper. These are printed on pages 6 and 7 of TRR.
- Masthead: Typically found on the second page, the masthead lists the name of the publisher, staff members, contact information, and other pertinent data.
- Column/columnist: This can refer to either a vertical line of text appearing in the paper, or a section regularly written by the same person, who is a columnist. Columns represent the opinion or experience of the person writing them, and are usually written to make a point, tell a personal story, or convince a reader of something. Cass Collins, Tom Caska and Jonathan Charles Fox are just a few of TRR’s regular columnists.
- Op-ed: Op-eds are opinion pieces written by guest writers. TRR’s can usually be found in the My View section on page 7, though this week we have run a poem.
- News analysis: This happens when a reporter who is well versed on a subject offers a comment on the subject based on their expertise. This is not the same as expressing an opinion on the story. News analysis stories may offer a deep dive on a topical issue. TRR sometimes has one of these on page 8.
- Death notices/obituaries: A death notice is a short announcement that includes basic information about the death of someone in the community. Obituaries, written after the notice, are longer stories on the life of a person. Both of these are located in the community living section of the paper on page 9.
- Featured section: Not every newspaper has these, but TRR does every week, somewhere near the middle of the paper. The content in the sections revolves around a theme, like health, food, or pets, for example.
- Feature story: A story in which the interest comes from something other than the story’s news value. Usually about a local business, something going on in the arts and culture, or a profile of a person. These can be found in the “Currents” section of TRR. Today’s is on page 15 or here on the website.
- Classified ads: Advertising purchased by the public in small amounts, published in a labeled section of the paper. You can find furniture for sale, housing, or employment opportunities, etc. on page 25 of today’s paper.
- Legal notice: An ad required under certain circumstances, such as when a company is forming a new business or an LLC, or official government notices. It is also where towns and counties place public notices on important hearings, schedules and other matters that are required to be public knowledge. Page 27 of today’s paper.
It’s fun to know:
The first sentence, or first few sentences, in a story is called a lede. The nut graf refers to a paragraph, usually near the beginning of the story, that answers the who, what, how and why of the story—theoretically, it is the only part of a hard news story you absolutely need to read. The kicker refers to the final sentence of a story. Many news stories still follow the inverted pyramid structure of storytelling, with the most important information at the top, and the least at the bottom.
A budget refers to a list of stories an editor is planning on running in the paper.
Many terms originating from the early 1900s are still used in the newsroom. A reporter files a story when he/she turns it in to be edited, or the editor gets a story from the wire (like the Associated Press). When someone says a story is above the fold, they just mean it’s important, not necessarily something they found literally above the place where a print newspaper folds in half.
When someone says you’ve buried the lead, what they actually mean is you buried the lede (see above). It comes from the idea that the most intriguing part of a story should be the first thing you say.