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News / Clark County News

From the Newsroom: How to speak Columbian

By Craig Brown, Columbian Editor
Published: May 4, 2024, 6:08am

I don’t know about your line of work, but in newspapers we use a lot of colorful jargon and lingo. Sometimes these terms find their way into common use. The words uppercase and lowercase, for example, refer to where the individual pieces of type were kept in composing rooms back in the day when type was set by hand. Because they were used more, the lowercase letters were physically located where they were easiest to reach. The capital letters were above them, where it was more of a stretch.

Of course, the days of hand typesetting are long gone, but newspaper lingo remains. I jotted down a list of words and phrases we use here at The Columbian. Learn them all, and you will start to sound like you work here!

Push: To send an alert to people who sign up letting them know that there is a breaking news story posted to our website. We try to reserve this for actual breaking news, not just to advertise our content. (If you are interested in breaking news, sign up for the newsletter at columbian.com/newsletters.)

Monkeyfish: A story about a community event. We used to cover a lot of these on the weekends, but they’re more rare these days. One of the more recent monkeyfishes was Amanda Cowan’s and Griffin Reilly’s coverage of the Paddy Hough Parade, which is one of my favorite events to cover.

Wild art: Also called standalone art, this refers to photographs that tell the story with only a caption or a short copy block, and not a complete story. We most often use wild art when it becomes apparent that the other stories planned for the page aren’t very photogenic.

The Owl: This is the name for the video device that sits on the table in the newsroom conference room, which for some obscure reason we call the Features Lounge. The owl doesn’t have wings, but it does have eyes that glow when it’s powered up. Occasionally it will hoot, which is quite a treat.

Taxonomy: Invisible to the reader, these are words and phrases we attach to a story from a customized list. The taxonomy helps the story get mapped to the right place on our website, and makes the stories more visible to Google and other internet search engines. This column, for example, has “newsletter” and “news columns>Craig Brown” attached as taxonomy.

Budget: A list that editors keep of stories we are working on, what they are about, what day they will be available to run, and what art they have with them. Budgets are usually organized by section, like Metro or Life, and by the day of the week. My column appears on the Saturday metro budget, for example, and we keep advance budgets for future Life and Saturday A1 stories.

Saxo: This refers to the name of the content management software we use, but it is generally used in place of the word “story” in sentences like “Can you put in a Saxo for that?” or “Did you put taxonomy on that Saxo?”

Trax: Similar to Saxo, this is our photo assignment software: “Hey, put in a Trax for the fire!” Its companion term is “lab request,” which is how we track and process contributed photos, as in, “Can you put in a lab request for that photo the fire department sent?”

Flag: The title of the newspaper that usually is located at the top of the front page. Back when I started in the business, once in awhile you’d see a story above the flag, but that is really rare these days and won’t ever happen on a day our managing editor for production, Merridee Hanson, is at work!

Skyboxes: These are the words and photos that appear above the flag, or sometimes next to it. In the old days, they were added to promote sales from news racks. Now that were sell fewer papers at news stands, skyboxes’ most important job is to make the page more appealing to subscribers. We want to invite them to read further into the paper.

I’ll share some more lingo next week.

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