1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Can this be bylined? Or can it NEVER be bylined?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sprtswrtr10, Mar 9, 2012.

  1. sprtswrtr10

    sprtswrtr10 Member

    Here's the deal.
    As I'm sure many out there do as we do in my section, many stories are written with bylines like this:

    "Name of Paper" Staff

    In the section for which I'm sports editor, which includes myself and three other writers, it is how we do our rewrites, be it off university releases and boxscores from games played we did not travel to, to short stories written off prep coaches call-ins to games we did not cover in person.

    When we do this, we feel free about adding a dateline to the story if it was played out of town. What we have never done is put anybody's name on a story that wasn't attended and covered in person, with or without a dateline. But I'm now wondering if there's every a circumstance in which one can do that.

    The particular circumstance that has me wondering about when it might be all right to byline a story from a game not viewed in person has to do with the women's basketball team I cover. For years it had been in the top 25, but not this year after dropping out early in the season. No longer ranked (and the policy for AP really is, no longer in the top 10) the wire does not tend to cover this team. So that has left me to rewrite the game stories. And because we're the hometown paper of this university and because we try to cover the team very well, I tend to watch the games on television (I suppose you could watch it off a webcast too) and write a very good game story, one that draws the themes running through the season, high on analysis of what it means going forward, in the conference, or angling for conference tourney and/or ncaa seed, identifying trends, and frequently even with quotes made available after the postgame press conference, or off the postgame radio show. I probably write 400 to 450 words in this circumstance. The short way of putting it may be that I try to give our readers a real story to read, with real insight and real meaning.

    Sometimes I think, this is really silly, people must know I'm writing it, because they sound like me, like the way I write the home game stories. Sometimes I think, this is crazy, because I'm insinuating what the game means, placing it in a narrative, just as I do the game's I cover in person, but I'm not putting my name on it because I think that's dishonest in some way, because I wasn't on press row; yet isn't it more dishonest to keep my name off it. It's not a column, but it's a modern game story, so shouldn't it demand a signature? No dateline, of course, because the writer wasn't there; but a byline, because the writer actually wrote a real story.

    With all of that said, didn't the LA Times have a London-based guy writing about the World Cup in South Africa, with his name on the story? Doesn't USA Today write many things — maybe not gamers — with bylines, but without datelines, because the writer was not on site to get the story? And don't thousands of bloggers put their names on stories - sometimes good stories - writing about events they did not view in person?

    So what should be allowed for a newspaper, when the beat writer, drawing on all of his or her expertise, writes something approaching a full service game story from a game not attended in person?

    I look forward to your thoughts.
  2. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    It's all a newspaper's style. I would talk to the managing editor or editor-in-chief. If you're writing a full-length story, it would look better to have the byline, in my opinion. My only hard rule: Never use a dateline and a byline for a story unless you were there.
  3. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    All of a sudden, Graheme L. Jones is "a guy."

    But in the interest of transparence (and I'm probably the only one who cares), I'll do somethin like "Podunk Press News Services," since it's not really a staff report, or a wire story.
  4. CentralIllinoisan

    CentralIllinoisan Active Member

    If it's a true gamer, no byline if you didn't attend. If it's a featurized gamer for a weekly or as a recap to a weekend, I have little problem with a byline -- but no dateline. Datelines means you were there.
  5. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    I think it's very much worth noting that these distinctions are utterly meaningless to readers, or at least to probably 98% or 99% of them. Doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile conversation, but I really don't think they draw the distinction.

    But to my mind, if you're adding content, it should get a byline. If you're just editing content, even if you're editing it substantially, as would be the case with ... virtually every PR that any university has ever put out, then no byline, same as you wouldn't put an editor's byline on any other story.
  6. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    Or put it this way: Does a cops reporter have to witness a murder to put a byline on a story about it? For that matter, does a beat writer have to attend a practice session to byline a story about that?
  7. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    Deskslave: On the cop story, no he doesn't have to see it, but to put a dateline on it, he needs to have been in the town.

    I think this is one of those old-school distinctions we are going to lose, but I was always taught that if you were not in the town, you do not use a dateline but rather say "in Podunk" in the story.
  8. zagoshe

    zagoshe Well-Known Member

    If you are truly writing original content, byline but no dateline.
  9. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    I love it when this topic rears its ugly head every three months or so, and the answer always is: Different papers have different styles. Do it however your paper has previously decided, or else declare a style and stick with it.

    Don't get caught up in dogma -- there's no law about any of this stuff, but there is a standard convention -- but don't be deceptive about your practices, either. The simplest answer is this: Just be helpful to the reader.

    Some general practices that we followed during my days working variously for the AP and UPI:

    - If you were physically there, use a byline and a dateline.

    - If you were not physically there and you're just compiling a short roundup item, use a dateline but don't take a byline. (It's OK to go without a dateline and insert the location into the body of the story.)

    - If you were not there and you're writing a full story based off of a call-in or monitoring a TV/radio broadcast, take a byline if you want to, but don't use a dateline. Include the location in the story.

    Good luck.
  10. Big Circus

    Big Circus Well-Known Member

    At my old shop, we used a modified dateline to indicate stories that we wrote off phoners. A story we covered got the standard "PODUNK - " dateline, while if we had a phoner, it started "In Podunk,". Most people probably didn't make the distinction, but we felt we were at least differentiating them in a substantial way.
  11. Flip Wilson

    Flip Wilson Well-Known Member

    With all due respect: Screw you. I worked as an SID -- sports PR, if you will -- and most of the stuff I sent to the local papers was run just as I wrote it. It ran just as I wrote it because it was good; it wasn't written from a homer's point of view. I knew what the media needed and I knew how to get it to the media on time and in the style and format that it was needed. When my school hosted an NCAA golf regional, I even got a byline -- which I didn't ask for, but it was nice -- on a multi-page feautre that ran the day the tournament started. I got that byline because I did all the background work on every one of the golfers who would be playing, and the local paper acknowledged that.
  12. zagoshe

    zagoshe Well-Known Member

    I worked at a small paper many moons ago and the policy was simple - if you took a phoner from out of town, byline and dateline it as if we were there.

    The last paper I worked at was "unless you are there in person, no byline or dateline"

    So I don't know that the answer is really out there, I just think you have to go by what seems to be right and wrong.

    And to me, if you take a phoner and a stat sheet and turn it into a story, you deserve credit so byline it but don't dateline it because you weren't there.

    If you rewrite a press release or an SID's version of a gamer, don't byline it.

    And unless you are there in person, never dateline it.

    That, to me, seems reasonable and correct.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page