The amount of technical jargon in the world of journalism—often even for very simple concepts—is notorious, and even if you’ve spent a few years at broadcast journalism school there will still be terms that’ll inevitably mystify you when starting your career.
But fret not! Below you’ll find a glossary of the most common broadcast journalism terms, as well as definitions for the most confusing and ambiguous lingo still used today:
Common Broadcast Journalism Terms & Slang
Advocacy Journalism – In which the reporter or journalist openly declares their stance on an issue while attempting to espouse it with factual reporting.
Active Proceedings – Any ongoing judicial case in which the activities of journalists may impede or subvert the proceedings, typically spanning between the arrest of a suspect and sentencing. Those who contravene reporting restrictions on active proceedings may be held in contempt of court.
Actuality – Sometimes shortened to “act.” Any audio recording taken outside of the studio on location (typically referred to as a sound bite in radio; see below.)
Anchor – News anchors are responsible for presenting stories on-camera, usually from a studio location though work can take place in the field. See our broadcast journalism jobs page for more info on the different professions within the field.
AP Stylebook – The Associated Press Stylebook, commonly adhered to as the industry standard on formatting and word usage in news writing.
A-Roll – The main portion of audio video footage in a news story.
Aston – An increasingly uncommon term for the strap line, more popularly known in broadcast journalism as the lower third (see below)
Attribution – The written phrase that identifies the source of a fact, opinion, or quote in a story.
Back Timing – The practice of rehearsing the final segment of a news broadcast and timing it; during the live broadcast, the director may then speed up or slow down this segment to coincide with the scheduled finishing time of the program.
Backgrounder – A story used to provide history and context to a current news story.
Beats – The areas of expertise in which a journalist or reporter covers on a regular basis and on an in-depth level, such as politics, health, or law enforcement.
Beat Checks – A list of established contacts that a beat reporter will frequently touch base to find or develop a story. These could include the local law enforcement agency, city council, hospital, or other sources.
Blind Interview – More common in print than in broadcast journalism, a blind or off-the-record interview is one in which the interviewee is intentionally left unaccredited (also known as a non-attributable.)
Bridge – An audio track linking between two news items.
Breakbumper – A short (2-10 second) indent used as filler leading into and out of commercial breaks. Often shortened to “bump,” but not to be confused with the verb of the same name (to bump a story is to place it higher or lower on the scale of priority.)
B-Roll – Supplementary material to complement the A-Roll, such as establishing shots or graphical overlays.
Chroma Key – Also known as green screening. See this post for further information.
Chyron – The words on the screen that identify speakers, locations, or story subjects. Chryon is a trade name for a type of character generator.
Citizen Journalism – Reporting which takes place outside of what is usually considered mainstream media, predominantly carried out by members of the public without formal training. Can include the work of bloggers and social media platforms.
Closed-Ended Question – A direct question intended to elicit a yes-or-no answer as opposed to an open-ended question intended to encourage a lengthy answer.
Cold Copy – News script not previously read by the reporter until the camera is rolling. Sometimes referred to by the slang term “rip n’ read.”
Cold Open – Any type of video which rolls before the camera cuts to the anchors, usually featuring a voice over and ending on a form of cliffhanger.
Correspondent – A reporter who files stories from outside the newsroom—usually someone assigned to cover events in another city, state, or country.
Crawl – AKA the news ticker, a thin bar of scrolling text which informs viewers of any upcoming breaking news or weather alerts.
Cutaway – A shot of something other than the main action of an action sequence. In an interview, the cutaway is usually a shot of the reporter listening as the source talks. Necessary to maintain continuity and avoid jump cuts.
Dateline – The specific location where a reporter is delivering a story. Usually announced in the sign-out or sign-off.
Donut – A produced news package with a live shot, with a live intro, and tag.
Downcut – Chopping off the end of a story or sound bite. Opposite of upcut.
Effort – A verb in newsrooms, as in “I am efforting that package to have it ready for tonight’s broadcast.”
Feature – A non-breaking news story on people, trends, or issues. A feature story isn’t necessarily related to a current event.
Feed – A satellite or microwave transmission of live or recorded material.
Follow-Up – A story updating or supplying additional details about an event that’s been previously covered.
Fullscreen Graphic or FS – A still or animated image, usually computer generated, that takes up the whole screen.
Happy Talk – Casual, informal, and light-hearted chatter between the anchors. Can be used as a form of bumper.
Hard News – The news of the day. Factual coverage of serious, timely events (crime, war, business, politics, etc.)
Hit or Glitch – Any distortion or technical distraction in video or audio.
Hot or Overmodulated – Either too loud (hot audio) or too bright (hot video). Engineers often say that hot video “blooms” on screen.
Hot Roll – When a crew in the field doesn’t have enough time to feed back footage to the newsroom, so they must roll it live from the truck during the broadcast.
Human Interest – A news story focusing on a personality or individual’s story with wide appeal to a general audience.
IFB or Interrupt Feedback – The earpiece through which a director or producer instructs a correspondent in the field or anchor in the studio. The producer interrupts whatever feedback the reporter is getting in the earpiece.
Join in Progress (JIP) – A direction to the control room to cut to a broadcast already in progress.
Jump Cut – An edit in a news package that interrupts continuity. Example: an interviewee speaking followed immediately by another shot of the same interviewee speaking at a different time, so the image “jumps.” Avoided by using cutaways or b-roll.
Kicker – A light story that ends a newscast.
Lead – The key information of the story, usually presented at the beginning of the segment. Not to be confused with the “lead story,” being the first presented in the broadcast and often the highest in priority (confusingly also referred to as the “lead.”)
Leading Questions – Questions intended to steer an interviewee in a particular direction.
Lip Flap – Video of somebody talking, with the audio portion muted. Happens when using video of people being interviewed as B-roll. Avoid it.
Live – Put on the air in real time, not pre-recorded or pre-produced.
Lower Third – The bottom third of the frame containing text information regarding the current story, the anchors’ or interviewee’s identification, and other relevant captions.
Miscue – An error in which footage or audio is played before its intended time, resulting in overlapping elements in the broadcast.
MOS – An acronym for “man on street” interview, in which a reporter on location gets spontaneous sound bites comprised of reactions to a story from members of the public. Also referred to as “vox populi.
NATSOT or NAT Package – A type of pre-produced package that has no reporter track; the only audio is the natural sound of the video being shown. It may also use interview sound bites. Often used to convey the mood or atmosphere at a scene or an event.
NAT Sound – Natural sound on video that the microphone picks up. Example: Including sound of a rally with video of a rally.
News Envelope – A summary segment in which the main headlines are broadcast in brief (around a minute or less.) May have local or national sponsorship.
OC or On Cam – Abbreviation for “on camera.”
On Camera Bridge or OC Bridge – The reporter appearing on camera in the middle of the story. Used for transition between voiceovers or soundbites, or when there is no video to talk over.
Open-Ended Question – A question phrased in a way that encourages a source to give a lengthy, in-depth answer—as opposed to a closed-ended question designed to elicit a yes/no answer.
Outcue – The final three or four words of a news package, included in scripts to signal to the anchor and control room staff when the package is about to end so they can cue the next element in the program.
Over the Shoulder Graphic or OTS or OC Box – A graphic that appears over the anchor’s shoulder.
Package (sometimes Wrap) – A pre-recorded, pre-produced news story, usually by a reporter, with track, sound, B-roll, and possibly a stand-up.
POV or Point-of-View Shot – B-roll shot from the perspective of the subject, illustrating what the subject sees or saw at a given moment.
Production Element – Any piece of audio which is intended for use within the final mix, i.e. jingles, music, sound effects, and other station-specific audio.
Promo – Promotional announcement. In effect, an advertisement for a program a station or channel is carrying.
Pronouncer – Phonetic spelling of word in story, placed in copy behind correctly spelled word.
PSA – Abbreviation for “Public Service Announcement.”
Raw Video – Unedited video, just as it was shot. Also called field video.
Reader – A script read entirely by the anchor on camera, without sound bites or video.
Remote – A live shot from the field, where a satellite truck is required to transmit the image.
Rundown – An electronic or paper form created by the line producer of a news broadcast. Gives specific details of every element in a newscast, including the order of stories, video, audio, and graphic elements and timing for each.
ROSR – Radio On Scene Report. Audio broadcast from the scene of a breaking news story, or shortly in the wake of recent events.
Rundown – An electronic or paper form created by the line producer of a news broadcast. Gives specific details of every element in a newscast, including the order of stories, video, audio and graphic elements and timing for each.
Sidebar – A small story, graphic, or chart accompanying a bigger story on the same topic.
Sign Off, Sig, Sig Out – Reporter giving name and dateline at the end of a package or report.
Slate – A full-screen graphic, shown on screen before the beginning of pre-produced video which identifies the story title, the reporter’s name, and the total running time. Only for newsroom use; not meant for broadcast.
Slug – The name given to a story for newsroom use.
SOT or Sound Bit – “Sound on Tape.” A recorded comment, usually audio and video, from a news source other than the anchor, narration, or voiceover, played during a news story. Usually an edited portion of a larger statement.
Spot – A commercial.
Stacking – Lining up stories within a newscast based on their important and relationship to one another.
Stagger-through – A full rehearsal of the show.
Standup – A reporter speaking to camera, not covered by video.
Studio (in the) – A story updating or supplying additional details about an event that has been previously covered.
Still – A still image as opposed to a moving video image. Stills can be used to illustrate a story and can sometimes be displayed over track or interview clips instead of video footage.
Sting – A brief piece of music, typically less than fifteen seconds, used to punctuate the end of a segment or story. The sting is often the station’s own jingle.
Stop Set – The time allotted to any commercial breaks within the broadcast.
Survey Week, Sweeps Week – The week in which a station’s viewership is monitored and rated.
Switch – An instruction given to the control room to cut to another camera or video source.
Tag – A paragraph at the end of a news story, usually delivered by the anchor, that provides additional information or sums up the item.
Tease – A short description of an upcoming story designed to keep the viewer watching through commercial breaks.
Tight on – A direction to the camera crew to zoom in on a subject so that they fill the shot (e.g. “Tight on anchor/guest.”)
Time Code – The time signature on a camera or recording device—actual time a story is being shot on a 24-hour basis, i.e., 1300 is 1 p.m., 0900 is 9 a.m. Includes hours, minutes, seconds, and video frames.
Toss – When an anchor or reporter turns over a portion of the show to another anchor or reporter.
Track – The reporter’s written and recorded script in a news package.
Tracking – The act of recording a script.
TRT – “Total running time.” The length of an edited package.
Two-Shot – Most often an interview guest and the back of the reporter’s head. Also used to refer to any shot including two people; two anchors at a single news desk, for instance.
Upcut – Chopping off the beginning of the audio or video of a shot or video story. Opposite of downcut.
Video Journalist or VJ – A reporter who shoots his or her own video and may even edit it. Also referred to as a “Multimedia Journalist.”
Videographer – A name for a photographer or cameraperson.
VO or Voiceover – “Voiceover” followed by “sound on tape.” A news script, usually read live, that includes video, track, and at least one sound bite.
VOSOT – “Voiceover” followed by “sound on tape.” A news script, usually read live, that includes video, track, and at least one sound bite.
Watermark – A semi-transparent graphic, usually the station’s logo, placed in one corner of the broadcast feed.
Woodshedding – The practice of annotating a news script to denote which words should be spoken with emphasis.
Know of any other terms which should be included here? Any that are still causing confusion and warrant further explanation? Head on down to the comments and let’s make the murky world of broadcast journalism terms a little clearer!