A Beginner’s Guide to Student Journalism Terminology

Anyone can work in media, but knowing what your editor wants and understanding what is going on with other journalists is a first step to establishing confidence in the field. Here are some terms to start you off on the right foot and allow you to understand the other volunteers and staff that work for the media. 

A little preface about myself and why I might be someone to take advice from: I work for The Cord, Wilfrid Laurier University’s independent campus newspaper on the Waterloo campus. Although I am the Video Editor, I have written articles for the News, Arts and Life, Opinion and Sports sections. I participate in our weekly production nights at the publication’s office, alongside other section, photo, graphics and web editors. I am surrounded by the fabrication of layouts, staged shots and interviews and also “live-on-location” for campus events. 

Key Terms and Phrases

Side note: I use the term article, piece and story interchangeably to refer to a body of text that written about a topic. 

Angle – The focus of a story or viewpoint from which an article is told. 

Byline – This where we put the name of the person/reporter who wrote the article, usually located at the top of the story under the headline.

Copyediting – The act of proofreading the paper to watch for formatting, grammar or spelling mistakes.

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Copy Editor – The person who does the proofreading. 

Cover – To collect and compile information or images for an event. 

Cutline – The description or explanation of a photo, usually located directly below the image.

Editorial – An opinionated piece that is written by an editor or director (i.e. a member of an editorial board).

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EIC – This is the Editor-in-Chief, a.k.a. the big boss or head editor, of the entire publication.

Feature – A longer story that takes up more space in the paper that develops. 

Fluffy – The story is light, happy and/or humorous (i.e. stories about puppies, memes and other often wonderful things).​

Freelancer – Someone who sells their articles, photos etc. to the media. 

Headline – This is the title of the story.

“It’s been pushed” – This story has been postponed until a later issue.

Kicker -  The topic line that catches your attention to read a piece.

Kill – When part of or the entire article is being discarded and not published at any stage of the writing process.

Layout – How the page is designed and where the text, images etc., are placed.

Libel – This is written information that is false and/or portrays an individual or company in a way which negatively impacts their reputation.

Running Story – A story that covers on-going activity or events. This is usually is published in multiple parts or has follow-up articles. 

Tip – When someone notifies a volunteer or staff member of the media about a story or event they should cover.

Honourable Mention — “Send me ‘Dear Lifes’!” — This means Safina (EIC of The Cord) wants you to send in messages to the Dear Life section of the website to be published in the Wednesday paper because there are not currently enough. 

This list is nowhere near exhaustive and there is always more slang and technology learned over time and created specifically within different publications. The next time you see a newspaper or online issue, pick it up! See if you can find someone who has worked hard on creating publishable content and check out how you can get involved in a creative way. Joining publications on campus has enabled me to get valuable experience and meet amazing people but trust me, it’s even better when you can figure out what they’re saying!