I’ve been working as a journalism-adjacent programmer for some time. It’s an area I find very rewarding, but no job is without its downsides. Let’s face it: for people whose job involves writing professionally, journalists are bad at spelling.
“Hed”, “lede”, and other bits of jargon are just part of the problem. The deeper issue is that every publication has its own nomenclature, and jargon has drifted in meaning since the switch to web publication. “Slug”, for example, began as a literal slug of lead melted into a row of letters by a Linotype machine. Now, it generally refers to a “short label for something, containing only letters, numbers, underscores or hyphens”, and it might mean the keywords in a URL or an internal ID system used by a publication for editorial workflow. Those two meanings overlap but aren’t actually the same, which leads to confusion when developers talk to journalists and editors.
I have been working on the website for Spotlight PA, and I wanted to try to give the parts of an article more-or-less standard names in our CMS. There was only one problem: just what are the standard names? To find out, I made a survey and asked in chatrooms and on Twitter for other news nerds to fill it out.