Explaining Today's Papers

Answers to your questions about the news.
Sept. 7 1999 8:38 PM

Explaining Today's Papers

Updated Dec. 14, 2005


Readers have requested explanations of some of the terms used in Slate's "Today's Papers" column. Here is a brief glossary.

Above-the-fold: On the top half of the front page (therefore visible even before the newspaper is unfolded). Signifies one of the most important stories of the day, according to that paper's editors.

Evergreen: An article that could run at any time. There are two types of evergreens: 1) an article without a direct tie-in to the day's news (e.g., "Traffic on the Rise in Metro Area"); and 2) a story that recurs regularly (e.g., "Elderly Threatened by Record Heat").

Front (as a verb): To place a story on the front page. The five national newspapers often reach different decisions on which stories to front on any given day. (See also, above-the-fold.)

Jump (verb or noun): For a story that begins on one (usually the front) page, to continue on another page. Or the place in the story where it breaks between pages. Or the entire part of the story after the first page. Because studies consistently show that few readers follow an article beyond the jump, many papers attempt to lay out the crucial elements of the story before the jump. (USA Today is the most extreme case, with front page news stories that almost never jump). Thus, the organization of facts around the jump can often reveal a paper's slant on a story.

Lead: The news story deemed most important by the newspaper. In most papers, the lead appears on the front page at the top of the right-hand column. The New York Times is the strictest about this rule, while USA Today--which often runs a feature story across the top of the front page--varies the most from this standard. On occasion, the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times will displace the lead with a feature story--usually one with an eye-grabbing visual. In these cases, the lead will almost always be the next story down in the right-hand column. The Wall Street Journal has not adopted these conventions for leads. Instead, the paper usually fronts feature stories and an extensive, two-column news summary.

(Note: The opening sentence or paragraph of a news story is also known as the lead, but usually spelled "lede" to avoid confusion.)

Off-lead: The second most important news story of the day. The off-lead appears either in the top left corner, or directly below the lead on the right.

Op-Ed: The page in a newspaper where opinion pieces not written by the paper's editorial board appear. It originally stood for "opposite the editorial page." It also refers to the individual articles on the op-ed page (e.g., "Henry Kissinger's New York Times op-ed on the nuclear test ban treaty"). Some op-ed pieces are written by regularly syndicated columnists, and others are submitted to the newspaper unsolicited.

Reefer: A brief front-page synopsis of a story that appears inside the paper. USA Today's "Newsline" and the Wall Street Journal's "What's News" are essentially multiple reefers. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times tend to integrate reefers into their front-page layouts.

Slug (as a verb): To run under the headline of (e.g., "The Chicago Tribune slugged the story, 'Teen births fall to record low' "). The term originally referred to the pieces of lead which held the type in place on printing presses.

Stuff (as a verb): To place a story inside the paper. Slightly derogatory, usually implying that the story was underplayed. (e.g., "The New York Times and Los Angeles Times fronted the Waco controversy, while USA Today stuffed the story").

Tease (as a verb): Synonym for reefer. A brief front-page synopsis of a story that appears inside the paper.

Thumbsucker: A usually derogatory reference to story that ponders a bit of news and doesn't introduce any.

Explainer thanks Scott Shuger.



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