Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Jargon used in Journalism: How we Cheese Argot in Newsrooms

Journalism, a profession that runs on words, wags a tongue of its own: jargon, slang, gobbledygook and fickle vernacular, and other specialist terminologies. They form a unique linguistic system that could fill a library of glossaries – just to numb the layman. Just keep praying that the specialist newsroom terminology never goes to the printer.

The often slangy and obfuscated expressions that journalists across the globe use in newsrooms fulfill a singular function: convenience and uniformity in communicating ideas and clarifying complex technical processes without having to elaborate. 

Hey, nobody said they were meant for non-journalists, as Bob Ingrassia would insist.

Even worse, our choice of words -- both verbal and in text -- are colorful and as diverse as they are capricious. For instance, the jargon newsrooms in Nagaland use are basic, limited, and generally colonial. Delhi is Desi, incoherent, and largely modified. New York’s gobbledygook are slangy, technical, and fiercely unique (‘30’, ###, ‘MF’, Graf, Wob ETC).  Likewise, a common term used in a newspaper in Nagaland could mean something else entirely in the cubicles of Bangalore Mirror. 

I have compiled a list of common, fairly universal terminologies used in the newsrooms and production desks of newspapers, broadcast, and the new media. The list is not complete. However, your chances of looking like a newbie will be far less if you were to relocate from Dimapur to New York. The reporter in the US and his counterpart in Delhi unite in this single fact though: our hoary vocabularies would make encyclopedias cringe.

One more thing:  successful journalists are avid readers. Stay updated, and you will never have to blush because you babbled an outdated term right in a room full of young industry veterans. 

In addition (that just made it another thing), the spellings may vary but I have mentioned the most common forms (US and Asia), and geographical alternatives where appropriate.  

If there are common terms you feel could be helpful but are missing from the list, please mention them in the comments section so I can add them here in the update. 

Looking for the perfect help with your industry language? There are resourceful books on Amazon that you might find helpful in case you want to keep up what the industry is 'cheesing about.' Check out Betty Kirkpatrick' Dictionary of Cliches and Richard Hartnett's Codes and Jargon of the News Business if you're interested.     

So.here is it, the insufferable Jargon from the world of journalism: 

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