By Michael Lewis
If you’re reading this particular column about soccer, well, it’s not exactly about it, although soccer definitely sets the scene.
It’s about bylines on stories.
In wake of The New York Times’ recent story of New York Post writers not wanting their byline on a politically charged story, I have had some episodes of not putting my byline on stories.
For entirely different reasons.
Today, anybody can throw a byline on an internet story, regardless of the news organization or website
At FrontRowSoccer.com, I try not to use bylines on every story because some don’t deserve one, whether it is an extremely short piece or a rewrite.
Back in the day when I first started in the news business at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, bylines were allowed, not for a round-up or a rewrite but for an actual story.
It was a tradition in the D&C sports department to find a way to get a newcomer a bylined story in the paper on his or her first day on the job. I thought that was pretty cool. Unfortunately, on my first night, they could not find me someone to interview. It wasn’t the end of the world.
You always wanted a byline on a story. Heck, I remember how proud I was when I had my first byline in the paper, first byline on the front page of the sports section and even of the entire newspaper.
There were a few occasions when not only I had multiple bylines in the sports section, but three on its front page because the stories I had written warranted that placement.
And then there were the times I didn’t – during byline strikes.
While writers at the paper would never go on an actual strike and picket the building, we staged byline strikes in which we withheld our names on stories.
When Don (Dragan) Popovic was announced as the new Rochester Lancers coach in December 1975, my story did not have a byline, adhering to the strike.
A few of my Lancers stories in April 1978 also did not have a byline during another strike.
But there came a problem for the April 30 game at the New England Tea Men. The editors said they weren’t going to send me to cover the match unless I had a byline on my story. I checked with the union and they gave me the okay to write the story with a byline. It was important to be at that game and give a first-hand account.
(Interesting aside: I barely made the plane that took the team back home to Rochester. A couple of Boston-area writers drove me from Foxborough, Mass. to Logan Airport – I remember passing Fenway Park on the way – and I just made the flight with minutes to spare. As I walked into the cabin, the team applauded. One of the flight attendants asked why they were reacting that way and one of the players, I believe it was Ibraim Silva who said, “He scored the winning goal!” LOL. Of course, I didn’t. But I felt like a winner because I made the flight on time).
In college, I refused a byline on at least two stories that I remember.
Gene Gumanow, the editor of the Nassau Community College newspaper, The Vignette, produced a three-part series of the decrepit buildings that were still adjacent to the campus in Uniondale, N.Y. in 1971. He put my name on the first part of the series without telling me.
I felt I didn’t contribute enough to the story to warrant the byline. I asked him not to include my name with the rest of the series because my influence on whatever reporting that was done was minimal. He complied.
Gene’s series, incidentally, won an award from the Columbia School of Journalism. I was very happy for him. He, and only him, deserved the honor for a job excellently done.