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Journalists speak their own language

Norma Najacht
Published: Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Kate, my daughter-in-law who recently joined the Chronicle staff, mentioned that she is having to learn a whole new lingo here at the newspaper.
I remember when we lived in Hot Springs I ordered a birthday cake to observe Charley’s 40th birthday and invited some of his friends to stop by the newspaper to help him celebrate. As they started going  through the line, I realized I didn’t have a knife, so I said I would grab a pica pole to cut the cake. One of them exclaimed, “Pica pole! That sounds nasty!”
It dawned on me that not everyone knows what a pica pole is and it’s no surprise that my daughter-in-law is having to learn a whole new language. Newspapers use pica poles instead of rulers to measure picas, a precise printing measure in which there are six picas in an inch and 12 points in a pica.
Newspaper personnel have their own lingo, as I’m sure that just about every other profession does.  But I’ve noticed that our “journalese” tends to be a bit violent.
A “head shot” isn’t really inflicted by a gun or other weapon, but refers to using only the person’s head in a picture.
A “kicker” isn’t referring to a football game or striking someone with the foot, but denotes the first part of a story set in larger type than the rest of the story.
A “bullet” is  not a projectile intended to injure someone, but rather a small circle used for emphasis at the beginning of a line of type.
A “bleed” does not involve real blood, but rather means that a picture or artwork runs off the page after the page is trimmed.
Each reporter at the newspaper covers a specific “beat,” such as the city, county, school or law enforcement area. By doing so, we are also referred to as a “hack.”
Although we work in close quarters and we try not to “bump heads,” that doesn’t refer to coming in close contact to each other, but instead means that we try not to put headlines next to each other, tricking readers into thinking they are seeing one long headline instead of two.

Kate, my daughter-in-law who recently joined the Chronicle staff, mentioned that she is having to learn a whole new lingo here at the newspaper.

I remember when we lived in Hot Springs I ordered a birthday cake to observe Charley’s 40th birthday and invited some of his friends to stop by the newspaper to help him celebrate. As they started going  through the line, I realized I didn’t have a knife, so I said I would grab a pica pole to cut the cake. One of them exclaimed, “Pica pole! That sounds nasty!”

It dawned on me that not everyone knows what a pica pole is and it’s no surprise that my daughter-in-law is having to learn a whole new language. Newspapers use pica poles instead of rulers to measure picas, a precise printing measure in which there are six picas in an inch and 12 points in a pica.

Newspaper personnel have their own lingo, as I’m sure that just about every other profession does.  But I’ve noticed that our “journalese” tends to be a bit violent.

A “head shot” isn’t really inflicted by a gun or other weapon, but refers to using only the person’s head in a picture.

A “kicker” isn’t referring to a football game or striking someone with the foot, but denotes the first part of a story set in larger type than the rest of the story.

A “bullet” is  not a projectile intended to injure someone, but rather a small circle used for emphasis at the beginning of a line of type.

A “bleed” does not involve real blood, but rather means that a picture or artwork runs off the page after the page is trimmed.

Each reporter at the newspaper covers a specific “beat,” such as the city, county, school or law enforcement area. By doing so, we are also referred to as a “hack.”

Although we work in close quarters and we try not to “bump heads,” that doesn’t refer to coming in close contact to each other, but instead means that we try not to put headlines next to each other, tricking readers into thinking they are seeing one long headline instead of two.

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