Bylines’ Second Life

Thanks all for the excellent comments on my “Proposed: Death to Bylines” entry. The points about the need for credibility, accountability and transparency are dead-on.

A few elaborations: 

I should have been clearer: I wish death upon only the single-author byline.

All content, whether packaged as a rich multimedia experience or a simple conventional report, should be clearly marked with the names of the team members responsible.

One tactic is a persistent shoulder text box appearing on each online page that carries content for an article or package:

Reporting: Jennifer 7.5 Lee Editors: Macaulay Connor, John Deiner Photographer: Usher W. Fellig 

Now let’s say it’s a more elaborate package: “After Human Bite, Dog Gets 7 Painful Abdominal Rabies Injections.” It includes a video of the attack taken by a surveillance camera, audio/video gallery of witness photos and comments, and a Q and A with a vet about how dangerous human bites really are to dogs. 

The box above would be expanded to include an online producer. The Q/A and gallery would each carry bylines for those elements. 

In all cases I would not present the reporter’s byline at the top of the story, but in the persistent credit box.  

The online presentation would include the usual  gallery of links inviting site users to comment, e-mail, rate, tag, bag and bury, etc. 

From where I sit–which is no longer in a newsroom, so it’s easy for me to say–that would take care of the credibility, accountability and transparency issues while still communicating the collaborative nature of e-media news and discouraging star-centric journalism.

There are many good reasons to disagree with my proposal. I don’t intend here to defend it, only to clarify it. I’m adding a clarifying statement to the original entry, in brackets, so those just joining the scrum will have a clearer of where to find the ball.  

Explore posts in the same categories: news, print-to-digital

2 Comments on “Bylines’ Second Life”

  1. NewsJunkie Says:

    Many newspapers already credit artists who make complex graphics, data wranglers, page designers, and for online content, video producers. I’ve seen credit boxes used over the years on big stories with multiple contributors. “Reported by so-and-so, written by so-and-so,” for instance. There’s nothing new about spreading around the credit.

    One of the reasons for putting a byline on a story is to tell readers who to yell at if they have a beef. Very rarely is that the designer, or even the assigning editor. This is a responsibility that comes with being the primary author — and that’s what a reporter is, colalboration notwithstanding.

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