Is screwing up a byline an "issue"?

In my reporting career, so far, I’ve experienced this twice.

I work for a weekly…yadda yadda yadda…and the first time it happened (my story ran with someone else’s byline), I was new and just said, hey what happened? They told me it was an error that the paginators had made and didn’t really seem too concerned. I was annoyed because it was a rather long piece that addressed some relevant issues in the city that (I thought) may have helped me with contacts, etc., but I just dropped it.

It just happened again, although it’s on a smaller piece that really doesn’t make a difference – but it’s still my work “accidentally” under someone else’s byline.

Is this normal? Am I right to be somewhat annoyed? It’s not a totally shlocky operation I work for, but it’s certainly not the New York Times.

As another journalist - not quite pro yet :wink: - I’d say you sure have a right to be upset. Especially since corrections are always hidden.

Do they ever print a “corrections” section? If so, they should correct the byline.

Not knowing the specifics of how your publication works, I can’t say if it’s something that’s likely to happen.

When worked as a page designer for Indiana University’s student newspaper, the byline was included at the top of the story (in the same file). We imported the whole thing into the layout program, formatted correctly, and bingo. So it was almost impossible to mix up bylines. Regardless, it’s something they should correct.

No byline means no credit, at least so far as my professors are concerned. I’d raise at least a little bit of a stink about it until the problem is corrected.

Of course, like Bush and Kerry, my byline is in my own voice, so that’s hard to mess up.


And, once again, that was me.


The first time, I’d mention it but let it go. Now that it’s happened again, I’d make a stink about it.

Just think: the next time it happens could be on that big expose of the local criminal justice system you’ve been writing for months, and a listing in the following week’s corrections won’t even come close to making up for the name recognition you’ll miss out on if it originally runs under someone else’s byline.

Find out where along the line the mistake is getting made and talk to that layout person, copy editor, whoever it is. Either that or talk to your editor and have him/her talk to the person responsible.

So yeah, especially if you’re just starting out, your writing is all about establishing your credibility as a reporter. I’d do my best to kep this from happening again.

I work at a two-reporter newspaper – just my boss and me – so it’s never happened to me. However, if I wrote a story and it got published with my boss’ name on it, I’d definitely make a fuss and would certainly expect him to run a correction in the next issue. Credit should be given where it’s due.

This happened to me twice too when I worked for a weekly. And, like you, the first time it happened I pointed it out to my editor, end of story. The second time, I went to the production manager (at our publication, he was in charge of the paginators; don’t know how it works at your place), and raised a little hell.

I also told my editor about it, and she made sure anyone proofing the pages checked with each reporter with a byline on that page before clearing it, if they weren’t absolutely sure who actually wrote the piece.
To me it was a huge deal, especially on stories I thought had potential to win a Press Award.


That would be a huge deal to me, unless it was some crappy two-inch news piece.

Not only is it a matter of just getting things right, but as a professional journalist, your stories (should be, at least) a matter of pride and satisfaction at a job well done. If the editor can’t bother to keep the right name on each story it really makes you wonder how much his (or her) journalists mean to him.

The whole thing is a the journalistic equivelant to a slap in the face.

And out of curiosity, just how does this happen? Don’t you place the byline at the top of your own story before you hand (or e-mail) it in? If the editor takes the whole thing and places it in pagemaker, how in the hell can the name get changed?

The way bylines got messed up at my paper:
The stories were written in Word. Our name would be in the property box, not with the actual text. Usually whenever we opened a new document, our name would appear in the property box by default. When the Word document was imported into Quark by the paginators, sometimes the name in the property box would get lost in transition. Once that happened, the paginator might ask someone who he thought would know who wrote the piece. Other times the jackass-- I mean paginator, would just guess. Very rarely, it seemed, would he actually call our editor to ask who wrote it.


I don’t think this is just a journalistic thing, this is someone else getting credit for your work and that’s an issue no matter what your profession.

Shrugging it off just isn’t good enough and shows just how much your work is valued, by both sides. If you don’t value it enough to insist the correct name’s on it, why should your editor? Mistakes happen, no-one can guarantee they won’t. But you can control how you handle them. I’d say your due an apology and assurances it won’t happen again, at the very least.

Plus, if I was the person incorrectly credited I would be embarrassed and kicking up a fuss too.

If I’m going to get full responsibility for my mistakes I expect to get full credit for my work.

An editor and long time reporter chiming in here.

It happens. Make sure your editor knows about it, but don’t make a big deal about it. This will help you in three ways. 1. He will know it happened and will watch for it. 2. He or she will be impressed by your maturity in dealing with it. 3. He will feel he owes you and will give you the slightly better assignments for a while to make up for the error (I’ve seen that happen a number of times).

In the future, slap your own byline on anything you write over 10 inches. Then it will then be the pag. people’s responsibility to either cut it or put in in the correct style for your paper. It virtually eliminates any chance of it getting someone else’s byline.

Usually what happens is that the pag. people need to put a byline on the piece (they think it deserves it or they need to fill that quarter inch or so between stories) and they look at the subject matter or style and assume it is person “A”. Often they are right - they usually know their writers, but occasionally they blow it especially in regard to a relatively new writer.

Tell the pag. people the next time your paper produces a potential Pulitzer winner you expect your byline on that one. Seriously, start haunting whereever your paper does pasteup or puts out the proofs and offer to help proof and as you do, casually check your byline (the offering to help proof will also endear you to editors).


Now that was ironical. Publishing under Doors’ byline.

If you’re going to be writing for a living, name recognition is going to be your bread and butter. If the people who weren’t too concerned continue to be not too concerned, ask them how they’d feel if their paychecks arrived with somebody else’s name on them… “It’s okay. It’s just an error in pagination.”

Former reporter, copy editor and paginator here…This IS a big deal, but it happens, unfortunately. I used to get royally mad when my articles were published with editing mistakes in them, because afterall it was my name that was on the piece. But when I became an editor, I began to understand all the complexities of putting together a paper on a tight deadline, and I understood better how mistakes were made. But putting the wrong byline on your piece, that’s pretty shoddy. However, both newspapers I worked at, the reporter’s name was always at the top of the file, so it was very hard to mess up.

Has anyone else noticed the “divide” between the copy editors and the reporters? Like an “us and them” mentality. There was always some friction between the two. When I was a reporter, we were always getting mad at the copy editors for making mistakes. But then as a copy editor, we were always getting mad at the reporters for making mistakes.

Thanks for the replies, ya’ll.

Upon reflection, I think I do work at an incredibly schlocky operation.*

My byline is on every piece I submit, so I really don’t know how it could get knocked off. We (the writers) do most of our own editing, and the paginators are part-time. Complaints like this are pretty much met with the “just be fucking glad we didn’t say ‘Pubic’ instead of ‘Public’ in the headline” mentality. I just didn’t know if that was standard or not.

*at yesterday’s staff meeting, we were reprimanded for using too much toilet paper

Not to mention that these articles that you’re writing now will go in the portfolio that you’ll show future potential employers in the hopes that you’ll go to work for them.

As I said, no byline means no credit.


Damn straight it’s a big deal.

Try the flip…if they’re laying someone else’s name on your work are they laying YOUR name on someone elses? And what if that persons sucks?

Mistakes do happen. But if it becomes a pattern you better be prepared to make a fuss.

I have kicked up a fuss on the occassions this has happened to me.

One time was a university literary magazine – my story, which was the longest piece in the magazine, went out under the name of a guy who had submitted several avant garde poems. Mine was a short story based on growing up in London. The story was well received, and he got quite a lot of praise for it


I contacted the editor when I learnt from friends what had happened (since I didn’t have a by line, I wasn’t sent a contributor’s copy), and I went to the editor and asked her to run the story in the next issue with my name, and a correction. She felt I was making too much of a fuss – I was furious, because this guy was getting all the credit, and from what I found out, made no effort to say, ‘Whoops, I didn’t write that!’ She wouldn’t even run only a name correction in the next issue.

I ended up having to go to the faculty editor, who had the story re run, and the student editor was told to resign (I don’t know what happend to the guy who was enjoying praise for the story he didn’t write) – the student editor had hysterics and demanded a public apology from me. Very strange person.

I’ve sent reviews and pieces to various small press and fan music magazines and fanzines – I gave up on one when I learnt the president of the fan club was taking off my (and other’s) names on photos and reviews, and replacing them with her own name. One guy had even sent her an excerpt from his unpublished book, and she published it even though he had sent it to her only on the condition she just read it for editing suggestions – he ended up having to get a lawyer, because his publisher had stipulated that no part of the work could be published in any form before they published the entire book. It was also discovered she was keeping subscriptions and claiming she never received the money. The upshot there – she ended up driving away her co-editor, who sussed her out, and now has the entire fan club to herself. Words fail me, as she’s still doing all this…

Nowt stranger than folk.

But absolutely – someone else gets your byline, and you’ve got a glitch in your cv or resume…