Journalese, A User's Guide

Journalese: Copy

There’s a reason journalists refer to stories as copy.

Ctrl A, Ctrl C, Ctrl V

Look at any hack’s keyboard and you’ll find those keys worn and beaten. There are no finer practitioners of the art of cut & paste than today’s reporter. No website is safe, no library cutting sacrosanct if it can get a reporter out of the newsroom and into the pub quicker.

It was not always thus. In times of yore when trees were pulped, hacks physically beat out stories on tinnitus inducing typwriters. Actual stories were filed, in duplicate using carbon paper, and so the term ‘copy’ was born. copy

But there’s an important distinction.

Should you wash up in a newsroom you need to know the difference between a story, an article and copy.

A story is ‘what you’re working on’ when you’re not looking at facebook or tweeting about what a bastard your news editor is for clearly overlooking your brilliance by asking for yet another picture caption.

An article can be one of two things: a) the start of a complaint from a reader, or more worrying, their lawyer. As in

 ‘I was just reading an article in today’s paper…’

This usually ends with a phone being damaged, usually yours.

An article  is also what comment and features editors commission from non-hacks who they need to convince that what they are doing is important.

Copy. That’s simple. It’s what you found on google, wikipedia and a quote you misheard on the evening news. Lash it up, bang it in and you’re good to go with a cheery:

I’ve filed my copy. If you need anything else, I’m on the phone. I’ve just got to go and meet a contact [drink beer/wine]

Sorted.

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