return to table of contents JARGON

This list of television newsroom jargon was inspired by an article published some years ago in the Providence Journal-Bulletin. Send us jargon specific to your shop at stewartr@ohio.edu. Please include your name if you want the item credited to you.

  • 100s, 200s, 300s: Stories in the first, second and third blocks of a newscast.
  • 15 minutes: How long assignment editors think it takes to get from one story location to another, regardless of what the map might indicate. Often used in conjunction with the term "just swing by." (Robert Carver)
  • A-Close: The last story in the first block ( or "A" block ). It can be like a kicker, or it can be sad, but it should make the viewers think or feel something.
  • AAA: Called "triple-A" man on the street interviews; "ask any a**hole." (Victoria Deaton)
  • Abortion: When everything is going wrong during the newscast, i.e. remote lives crashing, prompter going down, stories not making slot, misc. other producing horrors, someone will usually say, "There are picketers outside the station right now." That's because we call that situation an abortion. (Anonymous)
  • Anchor-pak: A package that's written usually by someone other than the anchor, but the anchor's voice is on it.
  • Anchorette: A derisive term for a female anchor who's attractive, but inexperienced. Used sparingly these days to avoid sexual harassment lawsuits. (Bruce Layman)
  • Assume the position: See Cluster F*** or Abortion.
  • B-roll: This term comes from the days of film when pictures were edited onto one reel and the sound was edited onto another reel. The picture reel was the B reel. Since in large markets reporter, photographer and editor skills were very good, there were also sometimes C-rolls, even D-rolls, so the director could dissolve his pictures from reel to reel, to indicate change of location or time change. The director assumed any reporter pakage was a synched B roll. He had to be notfied on the script of a "C" or "D" roll. (Al Volker)
  • BOPSA: "Bunch Of People Standing (and/or sitting) Around." Refers to the generic type of video often reaped from attending a meeting while working nightside. (Carver)
  • Back on: Anchor tag to a package or tag delivered from set after a live shot or newsroom hit. Hadn't heard this one till I hit Birmingham. (Volker)
  • Backgrounding: See Warm Props. What the people in the newsroom do, whether intentional or not, when they appear behind the set during a newscast. (Carver)
  • Back Time: Adding up the length of the show, starting at the end and working toward the begining. What we had to do manually before newsroom computers. I used a calender and a slide rule. (Jim Hurwitz)
  • Bag: See Block. As in, "The first bag's a little light; I need more news." According to one contributor, bag" is derived from "bag of shit," as in: "Is your first bag (of shit) long enough?" Apparently developed in L.A. or New York in the early 60's. (Volker)
  • Bat Phone: The direct line from the producer to the anchors when you want to talk 2-way instead of in the IFB. (AJana Calkins)
  • Big Board: The giant TV a reporter will do the standup tease in front of. Displays station logo, chart, poll, most often bulleted list.
  • Bird: A satellite used to relay TV signals.
  • Black Hole: The gap in your package that you forgot to fill with b-roll video. (Carver)
  • Block: Any segment of a newscast. Includes everything between the commercials. As in, "Your story is in the 3rd block at 6."
  • Bone Phone: An ineligant term used by a particular reporter to refer to the portable cell phone he wore on his belt. (Carver)
  • Brady Bunch: A video effect denoting team coverage featuring several boxes of liveshots and anchor talent reminicent of the opening credits of the sitcom.
  • Brick: Camera battery. (Deaton)
  • Budget: The editorial meeting with News Director, Porducers and Reporters. Before I became ND the producers divied-up the stories like a married couple decidling which bills get paid at the end of the month, hence: Budget. (Bill Evans)
  • Bullets: Usually at the end of the first block, weather and sports casters join the anchors on set to tease what's coming up. (Philip Sedlacek)
  • Cameos:: These are alternating shots of the anchors, at the end of the show, or end of a segment as you go to break. They were usually run over credits and music, or to fill a little time at the end of the show. (Volker)
  • Chafe: To be teetering on the edge, whether because of time or other factors. "Are you chafing?" "No, it's under control." All purpose word. "Today's a real chafer." (Bill Hoel)
  • Clean Kill: Thats when a newscast goes very well, almost to the point of perfection. Term is used by a director who was a Marine sniper in Vietnam.
  • Cluster-buster: Content used to put separation between something else, either unavoidable back-to-back packages in a newscast or especially long commercial blocks.
  • Cluster F---: See Abortion, Pig-f---. Usually refers to a combination of events and people that combined to screw up a show, a story, a segment. (Volker)
  • Cold Open: The VO or SOT video that starts a newscast before going to the anchor at the desk. (Zack Millican)
  • Crash and Burn: What happens when nothing goes right and the newscast falls apart.
  • The Crunch: Slang for the most tense period prior to a show ... usually an hour or less. As in: "we're in the crunch." (Deaton)
  • Cucam: Another Birmingham term for a straight on shot of the anchor. This is director talk. Pronounced "Q-cam." (Volker)
  • Deer-in-the-headlights: The anchor has stopped communicating, but is still reading the teleprompter. Where is that darned commercial when you need it? (Larry Gillick)
  • Do It!!!: The term a director gives multiple commands to multiple people at the same time. Example: Take 4, Mic, Super Chyron, Roll VT 10 SOT. This happens when the news talent try to spice up the show after a bad ratings book! (Dave Slie)
  • Dog Lick Live: Live shots that are pointless, a "live because we can" situation. Some of the people at the station refer to them as DOG LICK LIVE or to be a little more politically correct, DLL. As in "why does a dog lick his b---s? Because he can." (WBAY-TV, Green Bay)
  • Donut: A package used within a reporter's live shot.
  • Drive By: When a photograher does little more than shoot a wide shot at some event. "We've got Drive By video of the mayor kissing a pig." (Richard Adkins)
  • Efforting: A verb in newsrooms, as in "I'm efforting that story and hope to have it for the 6." (Deaton)
  • Elvis: The flashy bit of animation and music sting that announces the next story is "live" or "breaking news" or "on your side." (Jill Pauly)
  • Execution: Worthless reporter stand-up. "Stand 'em up and shoot 'em." (Adkins)
  • FFI Guys: A term for freelance cameramen who are so bad they are only to be called in extreme emergencies — Fires, Floods, Insurrection. (David R. Busse)
  • F.M.: A derogatory term the technical crew uses when producers ask for something technically impossible, or incredibly complex stuff beyond the capabilities of the crew. An abbreviation for "f--king magic."
  • Face Time: The amount of time each anchor gets in a show. When one person gets too many stories, the feathers start flying. (Layman)
  • Fake Dick: A staged event for the cameras. The term is used frequently in south Louisiana.
  • Feeds: Services (networks) that supply copy and/or video over telephone lines and satellite.
  • File: Old saved video that's re-used.
  • Flak: Derisive term that is synonymous with Public Information Officer. (Carver)
  • Float: What happens to a videotape package that doesn't get finished in time for its scheduled airing (e.g., it "floats" until the producer can slip it in later that block or into the next block). Guaranteed to make producers upset.
  • Foam the Runways!: A warning from the producer to the director and crew just before the newscast begins, indicating that an abortion or crash and burn appears to be imminent!!
  • Franchise Piece: You Paid For it!, Southern New England's Most Wanted, Healthcast, Turn to 10, Scambusters, 12 On Your Side.
  • Front Porch: Cables running out to the front of the news building (i.e., "The Front Porch") make it easy to do live shots. Sometimes referred to simply as "Porch," as in: Are we doing a Porch or truck live shot? (see "Hose Cam"). (WBAY-TV, Green Bay)
  • Gang Bang: A politically incorrect term that will not go away. It refers to pack journalism, or a situation where a large number of reporters crowd around a single person — often, in Rhode Island, a politician leaving the courthouse after his sentencing.
  • Generic Live Shot, or ":01": It's the live shot that networks offer to their affiliates on a big national story. It's called a generic because the reporter doesn't toss back to a specific person. He or she just says "back to you." It gives stations the appearance of presence across the country. It's also called an ":01" because the anchor tosses to the reporter at one minute after the hour, and the reporter does a hard start at that time. (Bob Connors)
  • "The Glass": Used at WROC-TV in Rochester for teleprompters, as in — "Just shut up and read the glass." Or, "Sure he's nice, but all he does is read the glass." (Scott Orr)
  • Go as Scripted: The next segment is to be aired the way the producer planned it. This is used usually after a hectic segment where there were adds or deletions. Example into the intercom or IFB, "B block goes as scripted."
  • Grinner: The reporter who stands there during team coverage split box's "grinning." S/he doesn't talk, just grins. Example: "We have team coverage tonight, in a moment, John Smith will have ____, but first Mary Jones has this." That means John is doing a grinner. (Deb Stanley)
  • Grip and Grin: A photo opportunity with a candidate for something or other who shows up to shake hands, smile and get on TV.
  • Haircut: Derogatory term for talent. "Live shot's in 60 seconds. Get the haircut in front of the camera."
  • Hard Out: When your satellite window ends it ends and you either go to hash or someone else's color bars. Opposite of soft out. (Tom Kole)
  • Hit Times: When the supers hit in the package. (Deaton)
  • Hose cam: WPXI in Pittsburgh overlooks downtown. They have a video/audio/ifb cable on a garden hose reel attached to the side of the building... just pull it out and instant live shot! (Bill Wilson)
  • Hose-n-go: See spray it.
  • Hot Roll: That's when a crew in the field doesn't have enough time to feed back tape to the newsroom, so they must roll it from the live truck during the show. (Connors)
  • IFB: The little earphone in the talent's ear through which you talk to him/her. When you are not talking, he/she hears the newscast minus his/her own voice. Actually stands for "Interuptable Fold Back." Often called a "Telex." (Jim Hurwitz)
  • In Studio: see Set Piece.
  • Insert: Same meaning more or less as a donut. A tracked package that a reporter wraps live in and out. (Connors)
  • Item: see Reader.
  • Jesus Lights: These aren't actually lights. They are filters for the studio cameras that create a "star effect" on the studio lights. Great effect for the end of the show.
  • Kicker: That's the light story that ends a newscast.
  • Kill: Eliminate a story from the newscast mid show. "OK everybody, kill C2 . . . C2 is OUT!"
  • Krispy Critters: An irreverent coping term used in Knoxville, Tenn. newsrooms in the mid-1980s to describe a fire story that involved burn victims. Reporters, photographers and producers invent these terms to handle difficult subjects quite often. A variation on this was used when someone in the newsroom quit the business after burning out it was said that he "had done his last krispy-critter story." (John King)
  • Land Line: Telephone. When discussing an exclusive story, assignment managers ask reporters in the field to call on a regular phone to guard against another station monitoring a conversation on a two-way radio frequency.
  • Landscape: Exterior shot of crime scene. What you may be stuck with if you arrive late.
  • Lip Flap: Person is talking, but we don't hear the words. In the days of film and the 28 frame delay, the director sometimes could not punch out in time and you saw the interview subject continue to flap with no sound. Today with tape, it tends to be used anytime you show a medium to close-up of someone speaking without hearing what they're saying. Needless to say this is a no-no. (Volker)
  • Locator: see Landscape.
  • Lollipop: Stick Microphone shoved so close to an interviews mouth that he/she might as well lick it. (Adkins)
  • M2bad: Refers to a certain tape format and the problems created by it. (Adkins)
  • MOC Shot: Used at some stations for a centered shot of the anchor. Stands for "Man On Camera." (Bill Wilson)
  • MOS: Man on the street interviews - quick bites.
  • Magic Pack: When I worked in Durham they used the term "Magic Pack." You have a photographer go out on a story, just add water (anchor track) and voila ... you have a package! (Bill Wilson)
  • Meat Puppet: Derisive term for anchor talent. (Carver)
  • Mike-stand: A photog's name for reporters.
  • NAT: Natural sound. Used with VO to match the video.
  • Newscast: What is used to fill the space between the commercials, according to one of my former GMs. (Hurwitz)
  • Newsgasm: Nice big juicy flaming disaster that happens in time to actually cover it; assignment desk term. (Deaton)
  • Newsmare: Similar to a nightmare - but worse. Waking up in a cold sweat after dreaming about missing a story, mistiming a newscast, fact errors, etc. Primarily a producer concern - but I've heard reporters suffering from them as well. (Ben Thompson)
  • Newsroom Hit: Reporter from newsroom with donut or insert. (Volker)
  • Nice-nice: A feel-good community event that a photographer sprays ... it could be used as a kicker.
  • Nuts and Bolts: On a big story with team coverage, one crew does 'nuts and bolts' (the basic facts). (Deaton)
  • OTS: Over the shoulder graphic.
  • Official: Someone who may know what's going on, but who you don't want in your package. Real people, whether they know anything or not, are preferred (see Triple-A). NOTE: Everyone is a witness after a couple of beers. (Carver)
  • One Man Band: S/he shoots, cuts, even reports! Often known as "bureau chief" in markets below 15th ADI. Becoming very common at regional 24-hour cable news operations. (Hurwitz)
  • Outro: Tag. Or the opposite of an intro.
  • Pad: How much extra time you don't fill under the assumption that no show runs exactly 22 minutes... (v.) to eat pad. (Brandi Davis)
  • POS: Politically correct term for MOS.
  • Package: A reporter's story told on tape with video clips of people he or she has interviewed, plus animation, graphics, stills or other visual elements.
  • Pig F---: see Gang bang. Another politically incorrect term that's heard OFTEN.
  • Plasticam: The cheap plastic industrial Betacams usually relegated to backup duty. (Deaton)
  • Post Mortem: The "what went wrong" meeting after the shows.
  • PrePro: Video production done before the actual newscast and inserted into a taped package. (Adkins)
  • Rain Fade: When a KU satellite signal starts to degrade. It's caused by inclement weather ... really. (Kole)
  • Reader: Story read by the anchor, without any video.
  • Reader Head: Only heard this term used in South Dakota. Refers to a VOB (i.e., reading over the video to a talking head). (Carver)
  • Real Estate: see Landscape.
  • Reporter Involvement: see Touchy Feely. (Carver)
  • Rip and Swim": A term used in Lubbock, Texas for separating 5 part scripts into anchor, director and producer piles. They called it that because you had to rip off the computer tabs, stack the paper, and then separate into 2 piles on the left and 2 on the right. Always done at the last minute -- thus the swimming motion. (M.B. Taylor)
  • Roundy-round: What the news helicopter does over a scene while the photographer shoots video. (Carver)
  • Rubber Room: Detroit term. Today it's called tape ops, or microwave receive. People in there bounce around like the room is made of rubber. It's where satellite and eng feeds come into the news operation. As in: "get down to the rubber room and see if reporter A has fed his insert yet," or to see if the network feed is in yet. (Volker)
  • Run and Gun: see Spray.
  • Segment: see Block. As in, "I have four packages in the first segment alone!"
  • Set Piece: Reporter will present his or her story from the anchor set, rather than live, or in the newsroom or paked in the field. (Volker)
  • Shooter: News videographer. Some consider it a demeaning term.
  • Show and yell: The daily critique producers are subjected to in their news director's office after each show.
  • SLAP Shot: "Stupid Live And Pointless." Refers to live shots that are done for no particular reason. (Carver)
  • Soft Out: When a satellite window is scheduled to end but no one else is behind you so your window closing is "soft." Opposite of hard out. (Kole)
  • Spray It: Instruction to a photographer to shoot as much video as possible, often in a situation where the photograher is working without a reporter.
  • Stack: Putting the newscast's stories in order. Also, what uncreative producers are accused of doing: "She's just a show stacker." (Hurwitz)
  • Stake-out: See Pig f---. Not unlike what the cops do when waiting for a suspect. A pack of reporters and photogs wait for something or someone. (Kole)
  • Standup Tease: A brief "tease" or headline from a reporter, on camera, promoting an upcoming story.
  • Sticks: A camera tripod.
  • Stop and Pop: When your live crew gets caught, at news time, where they are not supposed to be, like in traffic, and are forced to do their live shot from "on the way." They "stop and pop." Originally it was a basketball term for a long jumper, but it's come into use as above in our shop. (Al Volker)
  • Stop-n-Rob: The convenience stores that are often subjects of bank robbery stories. (Deaton)
  • Straight Live: Live shot without tape where reporter stands there and tries to explain what's going on. (Carver)
  • Suck Button: As in, "push the suck button." Anytime a director or other tech makes a goof that is noticible on the air—usually a major screw-up. originally a musician's term for when a musician plays badly. (Bill Stivers)
  • Suck Factor (rated from 1-10): When anchors start a stupid conversation in the middle of a block, either to eat pad or just to talk. Usually ends with one of them saying "ok" or "anyway." (Davis)
  • Synch Roll: Film term for a story that was edited on two or more reels. Each reel contained exactly the same length of leader and film. Since both reels were rolled at the same time, they were a synch roll. (Volker)
  • Talent: Those who appear on the air, such as reporters, anchors, and meteorologists.
  • Talking Bean: A talking head that says nothing.
  • Talking Head: The dreaded, long, uninterrupted head shot of a person speaking. If the person is crying or screaming, that's different.
  • Team Smotherage: aka team coverage, when not one, not two but three or more reporters are assigned to do a piece on a story that hardly deserves it. (Kole)
  • Ten lbs of shit for a 5lb bag: When you had too much material for a 1:30 story running time.
  • Thumb-sucker: (1) Also called a "bunny story" that you know is a meaningless waste of time but hey, everbody needs a kicker. Or, (2) A live report on an upcoming event. You got no tape. You're just talking to the camera, "sucking your thumb."
  • 'tog: TV News Photographer. (Richard W. Adkins)
  • Touchy Feely: Reporter stand-up where reporter feels the need to pick up something and show to the viewer. (Adkins)
  • Tracked-VO-SOT: Usually a live donut with no stand-up. done in a rush to get something on the air while stuck out at the scene. reporter does a voice-on-tape lead in to a sound bite, then back to the live shot.
  • Train Wreck: Ancient and honored term, especially from film days, when the newscast is about to crash on-air. You always get warning, however, because some prophetic soul begins singing a Johnny Cash tune: "I hear the train a comin'..." Originated at old WLW-I , Indianapolis, when a thick-fingered TD punched up some videotape of an actual train wreck instead of the show open, then punched up an amazed anchor man caught with his mouth open, trying to figure out what he'd just seen. (Bud Gillett)
  • Tripod Carrier: What some photogs call reporters, because a reporter once asked an assignment desk who her "driver" was for the day, meaning photographer, so we came up with Tripod Carrier. (WBAY-TV, Green Bay)
  • VBV: Voice-bite-voice (like VOSOT, but indicates video after a bite). (Deaton)
  • VO: Voice over. Either an anchor when live over video, or over video pre-produced in a package.
  • VOSOT (VO'-sot): Literally, voice-over, sound on tape. Usually, it's a story read by an anchor, in which the viewer sees some kind of video over part of it (the crime scene, for instance), followed by a soundbite (from the witness, for instance).
  • Vid: Video, pictures. "Did you check out Chuck's story? He got great vid!"
  • Walk and Talk: Reporter demonstrates story. Usually because of lack of b-roll pictures. Good for police scene, or for helping transport the viewer from one scene in the story to the next. Works well sometimes, but can be over-used. (Volker)
  • Wall, The: The chroma-wall used by the meteorologist.
  • Wallpaper video: Nondescript, generic video used with a voice-over when there are no better pictures for a story.
  • Warm and Fuzzy: see Kicker.
  • Warm Props: Newsroom employees who buzz around in the background of "live" news programs. "OK, for this next wide shot of the studio, we need a lot of warm props on the floor."
  • Weathergasm: see Weather Woody.
  • Weather Woody: When the weather turns nasty and the meteorologists have something to do.
  • Whip and Ride!!!: aka hurry... Miss-timed the show by a minute... So sports guy needs to rip through his scripts and vid (purely a Texas term).
  • Window: Anchor has graphic over his shoulder. As opposed to cucam. (Volker)
  • Wrap: see Package.

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