Slugs on the web

A slug is not just one of those long slimy brown garden critters we have in Seattle to keep down the primrose population.

A “slug” is also the term used in newsrooms to refer to the short filename of a story or a photo. Slugs, assigned by the copy desk, might be something like “Bush Speech” or “Va Shooting.”

Slugs are “insider” labels for stories that appear in the paper with much longer headlines and captions.

With the advent of the web, slugs are no longer “insider” information.

On a news site, slugs often make it into the HTML that refers to the name of a photo. They might even appear above a caption. Thus it’s very easy for anyone to see a slug. So using a slug like “GAYSUIT” for the photo of a gay fireman who has filed a suit (and is wearing a suit at the press conference) probably isn’t the best idea.

Metroblogging Seattle didn’t like it, and apparently the Seattle Times, which had allowed the slug to appear above the photo caption, removed it when it was pointed out.

I have to say that I don’t think a filename, particularly a clearly ambiguous one, warrants such a hissy fit. But maybe I’m just showing my calloused, reportorial side here. Comments?