Widows and orphans: A Gannett Blog glossary

Traffic here is soaring, as more people discover my blog about the nation’s No. 1 newspaper publisher.

Yet, many younger readers, and those who haven’t worked in newsrooms, may wonder about some of the lingo used here. The labels that appear at the bottom of posts and elsewhere include a couple that only old-timers like me (I’m 51) may recognize:

  • Widows and orphans: A typographer’s term, referring to a line of text that’s very short. I use it in place of miscellaneous.
  • The morgue: That’s what we called the library. Librarians would clip all the stories from the day’s paper; catalog them, then file them in heavy-paper sleeves. The Morgue is what I call my archive of older posts. Look for the drop-down menu, in the middle of the blue sidebar, right.
  • Teletype: The name I’ve given to the audio player, also in the blue sidebar (screenshot, above). Turn up the volume on your speakers, and click on the play button; you’ll hear the sound of a machine that once clickity-clacked in newsrooms.

What are some of the other words and phrases you recall from the old days of newspapering? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.


13 Responses to “Widows and orphans: A Gannett Blog glossary”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    words from my “childhood”: Compugraphic, negatives, stripping, Xante printers, waxer, opaque pens, Xacto knives, galley cutter, halftone screen, PMT, velox, reverse paper, fixer, developer, horizontal and vertical cameras, Christmas bonus, Christmas party, company picnic

  2. Anonymous Says:

    words from my “childhood” : news, credibility, ethical, honest, fair, handshake, trust…

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Don’t forget “customer service.”

    In pre-computer circulation, they used to look up subscribers’ route numbers in the “routing wheel”, so called because the streets were all cards in a big rolodex.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Other words / terms …

    “Trash 80”
    – 30 –
    Free obituaries

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Hot type
    Rubber Cement
    65 line screen
    Proportion Wheels
    Line Guages
    Leraset and chartpak rub off type
    Chartpack line tape

  6. Anonymous Says:

    at my newspaper in Advertising Production still say “off the floor” to indicate when our pre-run special sections deadline is, as opposed to the actual publication date.

    I am too young to have experienced a real “off the floor”, but I understand it meant the Composing room employees pushing a wheeled cart with the big heavy completed page of metal type locked inside a frame (chase)over to platemaking.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Newspaper of record

    Inverted pyramid


    City Hall coverage

    Planning Commission

    School Board


    Institutional memory

    In-depth reporting

    International news

    National news

  8. Anonymous Says:

    -30- … for the industry?

    The 1959 Jack Webb movie of that “name,” essentially “Dragnet” in a newsroom, might be lost as those who know -30- and its meaning fade out …

  9. Anonymous Says:

    pica stick (or pica pole)

    Ready Reckoner (For doing baseball standings before the calculator days)

    supper hour (while composing processed all the paper copy or ran tapes of what you sent out)

    Pneumatic tubes


    carbon paper

    copy boy



  10. Anonymous Says:

    oh … and

    Turtle (the cart hot type pages were rolled around on)

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Pride, support, sense of urgency to break the news.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Pint of good whiskey, bottom right desk drawer …

  13. Anonymous Says:


    phone book (as in the printed version, not http://www.whitepages.com)


    “the boards” (composing desks)

    All the old copyediting marks.

    wheel trimmer


    film cans

    Newsrooms that kicked butt like merry bands of pirates.


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