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Byline or no byline: a specific case

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sprtswrtr10, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. sprtswrtr10

    sprtswrtr10 Member

    I am right now writing a track and field story from a meet I did not attend, but that took place here in town. Originally, I might have said I'm "rewriting" the story. However, that's not really true. There are three focal points to the story: the girl who led her in-town high school team to a second place finish by winning three events herself; the in-town high school boys team that won the event on volume, getting a bunch of placers; and the not in-town-but-area kid who won two events himself and finished second in another.

    There's also the mention that on a day of crazy weather, this was about the only thing that got played today (the weather came a little later). There's a back story to that area kid that will be mentioned, because he's been an oft-injured star since his freshman year in football and basketball; but here he is, back from the dead, having a huge meet in his final semester as a prep athlete

    I guess my point is, because I care to make something better out of this than a quickie 200 word right off the agate rewrite, is it wrong to include my byline on it. Because I'm going to do a better and more complete job than many would have even had they covered the event in person.

    Don't know that it matters, but we did not cover this in person because we had a full slate of stuff going on this evening and the track and field was going to be a quickie rewrite at best had the weather not stepped in. However, the weather has killed the high school night schedule (that's another thing that will be mentioned in this story I'm writing, that many things were postponed today), so now I'm doing more with the track and field.

    That's all.
    Just wondering what folks think.
  2. BurnsWhenIPee

    BurnsWhenIPee Well-Known Member

    I think if you weren't there = no byline.

    Not dead-set against putting a byline on it, but even if it is more than what a typical write-from-the-agate story would be, it sounds like that's basically what you're doing. Are you going to have quotes from this girl and boy you're adding more about?

    If you weren't there and there are no quotes, then I'd say definitely no byline.
  3. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    Ahh, the byline/dateline issue. Here's my take on your scenario: If you conduct interviews for the story, you can give yourself a byline but no dateline. Otherwise, leave the byline off. Some papers would then add that you should put a dateline on. That's company style all the way. There's really no right answer. Ask your boss. It's a company-by-company, case-by-case question.

    A few of the at least a dozen threads on this issue:

  4. Krakatoa

    Krakatoa New Member

    I'm certain all the threads Versatile cites say this somewhere, but my rule is: Did I write significantly more than half the story using interviews and other info not included in the info someone sent me? If I answer yes, I put on a byline. If not, it's a "staff reports" or whatever the hell you call it at your paper piece.
  5. TheHacker

    TheHacker Member

    Entirely a question of how much reporting you do.

    If the story is rehash of meet results that you pulled off the web or that someone emailed to you -- even if you add in a quote or two -- it's "From staff reports."

    If you're talking to a couple of people and doing interviews and telling a backstory, I'd consider that a bylined story -- and don't stress about it, not even a little bit.
  6. Big Circus

    Big Circus Well-Known Member

    What's the focus of the story? That, more than anything else, should inform your choice. Is it a writeup of the meet with backstory that you added, or is it mostly a feature that includes the results you were given? Byline the latter and staff-report the former.
  7. beanpole

    beanpole Member

    If you're doing some original reporting, then give yourself a byline.
  8. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    Maybe it's just me, but I never see the point to these byline discussions.

    What does it really matter whether your name is on it?

    I think we care a lot more than the reader.

    I probably write 15 stories a week (weekly), and juts byline the ones that seem to merit them. My editor leaves it up to me.

    This is not a knock, really. But I think you're stressing a bit. You think you deserve a byline, put it there.
  9. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty New Member

    no byline. you weren't there.
  10. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    The ultimate, correct answer.

    And if we think we're attacking a journalistic morality question with the byline/dateline issue ... we're over-thinking it.
  11. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I think sometimes we navel-gaze a lot. :)
  12. I'll never tell

    I'll never tell Active Member

    Give me a second for some backstory ...

    It was a Friday football night and we needed to be at an out-of-town game, but just couldn't make it happen. Called the coach early that Friday morning, begged him to call us. Called one of his assistants, too, with the same plea.

    They won the game, and after no call, finally tracked down the assistant. Got him to hand the phone to the coach who was sitting two rows in front of him on the bus. He was great, walked to the back of the bus handed the phone to the star player, who then handed it off to the stat guy.

    Another paper sent me quotes from the other coach and a stat box just in case I wasn't able to get in touch with our local team.

    Since it was a game we'd previewed and a rivalry, I had enough background to turn around about 600 words.

    I'd sent a college freshman stringer to another game and he only turned about 350 words (max) on his story. Which was fine.

    I didn't byline it, because I'd covered a game myself. That would have looked way screwed up. (two bylines - one datelined, one not). So, I just left it off all together. "From staff reports"

    I've always be of the mindset, readers don't read bylines. (People still tell me great job on that story last week on Podunk U.; I haven't covered Podunk U. in 7 years.) But since it's preps, people will always find something to bitch about.

    Woman called me the next day: You didn't cover us, but you covered so and so (game I sent the young stringer to). "Ma'am, the story on your team was twice as long and written 10 times better."

    "I don't care. We'd rather have somebody there."

    The moral of this story: Somebody's gonna bitch no matter what you do.
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