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From AJR,   April/May 2007  issue

Bye-Bye Byline   


By Emily Groves
Emily Groves is an AJR editorial assistant.     

For reporters, long hours of work and dogged locating of sources are justified by one reward: the byline. But wire reporters frequently are denied the pleasure of seeing their names in print. On January 19, editors at the Dallas Morning News distributed a memo outlining a new policy in which only staff-written articles receive a byline while wire stories get the generic credit line, "From Wire Reports." AJR asked editors at the News and other papers to explain their policies on using, or not using, bylines on wire stories.

Bob Mong, editor, Dallas Morning News: "What we want to do is showcase our staff reporters that was really the starting point for our policy and then raise the threshold for bylines from wire services. It has another intent: to encourage our desk to choose the best information" from multiple sources "and blend those and give credit at the end."

Tim Poor, national/foreign editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "We generally publish bylines on wire stories that are roughly 12 inches or more, and particularly stories where the writing is a key element of the story, rather than just a recitation of facts. Long ago we wouldn't give bylines on wire stories, but we changed the policy a few years ago it just provides more information for the reader. I was a reporter, so I realize that writers like to have their names on their stories, especially if they're well written."

Carl Pisano, deputy managing editor/nights, USA Today: "We don't have a formal policy on that; it's more informal and basically a judgment call. If a wire story is very enterprising and unique, we would almost always give it a byline. If it's a brief, we would usually not give it a byline and just credit the wire source."

David Satterfield, managing editor, San Jose Mercury News: "We run bylines when we run a verbatim copy of what we get. We have editors who sometimes meld a couple of stories together, and in those cases we would drop the bylines and credit the wire stories. I know some other papers are revisiting this issue, but we just haven't had the time. We might at a later date."

Clark Stevens, copy chief, Los Angeles Times: "I'm not sure if it's clarified into being a policy. We run relatively few wire stories compared to most papers. Some of them we pick up the byline as it was run in the wire, but other ones we run the generic AP byline. I'm not sure a huge amount of thought goes into it."

George de Lama, managing editor for news, Chicago Tribune: "Whenever possible, it's our intention to give credit where credit is due not only to the news organization but to the appropriate reporters. I was a foreign correspondent for 15 years, and I was always appreciative when newspapers ran my byline. So whenever the story is substantial enough and not just a brief, we run a byline."