What is a Byline

Glossary > Byline

💬 Definition of a Byline:

A byline is a short line placed between the headline and the body text telling the author’s name. This is mainly related to magazine and article publishing. Others prefer to place the byline at the end of the article to leave more room for the graphic part.

Related questions about Byline:

What does a byline look like?

  • Your typical byline would generally look like this:

John Smith

[name of magazine] Reporter

  • Sometimes they may include not solely the name of the reporter but also the summary of the article.

[description of the longer piece in a phrase] written by [name of the reporter]

What is the term’s origin?

Bylines were rare until the end of the 19th century when reporters writing from the Civil War front were required by Union General Joseph Hooker to sign the articles to be able to blame them for errors or security violations. Until then, signed pieces were rare. 

The word itself first appeared in print in a scene set in a newspaper room from Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. It was published in 1926.

How did the term stick?

New York Times publisher and owner Adolph Ochs resisted using bylines as he felt they interfered with the idea of objective reporting of the news. He also believed that bylines decreased the sense of responsibility in newsrooms regarding article content. For several decades, the magazine did not use bylines. 

The Associated Press published the first wire story with a byline in 1925, and within 50 years most magazines had started to attribute their content to individual reporters or wire services by using bylines. Short articles or editorial pieces remained an exception to this rule.

Is the byline always individual?

When the story originates due to field research (dateline), the byline is given firstly to the reporter, photographer, broadcast reporter, or video journalist who made the story possible or provided relevant information from the site of the story. 

There are two scenarios:

  • If several contributors are byline worthy, the one that did the fieldwork is mentioned first. 
  • If there is no dateline (fieldwork), the byline goes to the writer of the piece, with the tagline (if the case) to any relevant contributors.

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