‘Spike’ Is Spiked in the Modern Newsroom
WORDmeister Note: Washington Post columnist John Kelly struggles with a new newsroom computer system—“Methode”—that takes some of the blood out of journalism.
“I feel I should pause and mourn the passing of an old newspaper word. Now that Methode is here, stories are no longer ‘spiked.’
“To ‘spike’ a story is to eliminate it before it sees print. It has its origins in a physical act. If you look at old photos of newsrooms from the ’30s or ’40s, you will see eyeshade-wearing men, their sleeves held up with garters, sitting at long tables. Sticking up from those tables are metal spikes. A story that was insufficient for whatever reason would be smashed atop the spike, the paper perforated and pinioned like a butterfly or the head of a traitor.
“We long ago stopped using metal spikes, but the word persisted. In our old computer system, you could dispatch a story by clicking on a drop-down menu, highlighting the word ‘Spike’ and clicking enter. It was a bloodless, digital spiking, but I always got a kick out of knowing the word connected me to journalism’s past....
“Now, however, my drop-down menu doesn’t say ‘Spike.’ It says ‘Delete,’ just like on your computer.
“Spike has been spiked.”
—John Kelly, columnist, The Washington Post, Oct. 18, 2010 URL
(Thanks to alert WORDster Betty Medsger)
Editor’s Note: Kinder & gentler, or limper & duller?
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