Wick Communications

What do you slug your story?

In journalism on 28 Nov 2014 at 11:31 am

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In the Times Insider last week (it’s a premium online deal and behind a paywall), New York Times Assistant News Editor Kyle Massey explained the thinking behind the slugs used by the newspaper of record.

Slugs, of course, are the file names used in the editorial department of news organizations everywhere. A story about a deadly shooting in Roanoke Rapids or Lake Havasu might be slugged MURDER. In general we try to use slugs that are brief and to the point and not easily confused with other stories.

The term “slug” harkens back to earlier print days, when characters were strung together in cold-type sticks or in single lines for Linotype machines. Those individual lines of type were called “slugs” and that term apparently appealed to editors who quickly adopted it.

We all have various conventions for slugs. Massey reveals that, at the Times, stories about the president are slugged either OBAMA or PREXY, the later being the habit used by the newspaper’s international desk. Country names are only used as slugs by the international desk.

I sometimes worry that a slug like CITY COUNCIL will cause production to incorrectly pull up the wrong CITY COUNCIL story. There are surely hundreds of old ones on our server. For that reason, I slug my next opinion piece “EDITORIAL FOR 12-3” and so on. But we don’t always do that. …

Do you have tics over slugs? Things that you have always done but can’t really explain? I’d like to hear about them just because I’m a newspaper nerd.


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