Journalism jargon

One of the things I love about working at different newsrooms is having to learn new journalism jargon. What one calls a “super” is a “baseball” to another. I thought it would be fun to create a list of terms I’ve learned. As I collect more, I’ll add them here.



Super/lower third(s)/Chyron/baseball — these are the banners you see at the bottom of the screen giving you the name and/or description of people talking during TV reports. “Lower third” makes sense (the graphic is in the lower third potion of the screen). Some people I’ve worked with call the description of the person the “super” — so, the name is on top, and the description (witness, victim, professor of such-and-such, etc.) is the “super” at the bottom. Chyrons get their name from the software some organizations use to create lower thirds. A former professor of mine at Columbia University told me one New York station calls/used to call them baseballs because the news staff used the same system normally used for lower thirds in baseball game broadcasts.

Double boxes — this is when there are two videos feeds in their own separate boxes on TV. Usually, this entails the anchor being framed in one box and the person he/she is speaking to in another.

Stand-up — this is the part of the story in which the reporter looks and speaks directly to the audience. Essentially every normal TV report includes one. It acts as a signature of sorts, and normally lasts 5-10 seconds. Stand-ups are especially great for moments in stories that a reporter can’t otherwise illustrate. Some types of stories almost never include a stand-up, such as profiles. In university, professors said they are called stand-ups because it’s normally a reporter speaking to the audience while — you guessed it — standing up.

Bridge — these are stand-ups that occur in the report usually in the middle portion, often bridging the story from one part to another (to another scene, voice, etc.).

Pad/padding — ever notice how many reports often start with an extended action (drilling, the splashing of waves, etc.) with the reporter’s voice being heard a couple of seconds later? This is pad. It’s also included at the end of reports after the sign-off. It’s included because when the staff in the control room send or “push” the report for playback, a second or so of the report might not play when switching the video feed from the anchor to the report. Different newsrooms have difference standards; I was taught to include 2-3 seconds of pad on each side of my stories. Pad at the end of a report that ends with a stand-up consists of the reporter staring into the camera for several seconds.

Throw — when the reporter/anchor hands a section of the broadcast for someone else to handle. For example, the anchor might say: “John Doe is live with the rest of the story.” The anchor is “throwing” to John to speak to the audience.

Top and tail — these are the stand-ups done by the reporter immediately before and after his/her story airs; tops being at the beginning of the story, tails at the end. The formula usually goes something like this: anchor introduces the story and then “throws” to the reporter > reporter responds (cliché alert: reporters often start with “Well, John…”), provides further intro > story airs > reporter appears again [may do a Q&A with the anchor], throws back to anchor/signs off > anchor thanks reporter.

Look live — these are stand-ups, normally tops and tails, which have been pre-recorded. There is a certain art in timing the newscast so the anchor throws to the reporter in time. When the look live is recorded, the reporters need to stare into the camera for five seconds or so before speaking (pad) if they are going to be double-boxed. Some reporters actually nod their head and smile as if they hear the anchor throwing to or thanking them.

Live-to-tape — parts of the broadcast that aren’t done live. While these can be called and are technically pre-recorded pieces, they are distinct because there are usually no second takes or edits.

(Wo)man on the street/vox populi/vox pop/streeters — these are the names of the clips and people, normally on the street, giving their opinions on whatever a report is covering. Short clips of these people usually come right after each other. Streeters normally aren’t given lower third titles. At many stations, interns are given the task of going out with a cameraperson and gathering these clips. Pay attention to the backgrounds in these clips; it’s a sad reality but, sometimes, getting streeters means getting the opinions of people right outside the station’s building.

Package — this is what the finished report is called.



Lede/lead — the opening sentence/paragraph of a report.

Hard lede — a straight forward lede that gives the readers the goods right away, providing the most important information in the article; usually includes the who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Soft lede/martini lede — a less direct lede that provides more colour before getting to the important information. A reporter may start with a scene to draw readers in and then explain that scene’s importance and what the article will be about later in the story — normally somewhere in the first quarter of the article.

Nut graph/nut graf — a paragraph or sentence that explains what the story is about and/or its relevance — the thesis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *