An incident that occurred this week on my beat gave new relevance to what a byline means to me as a reporter and what it should mean to you the reader.
A byline is the name above every article emphatically stating who the article was written by.
What may seem as mere vanity or protocol is actually a crucible to one’s character.
It takes a lot of guts to put your name on something you wrote. It takes even more for it to be published.
A few weeks back, a letter was sent to the editor, as many are, to be published for an upcoming issue.
It was a scathing review by a reader who thinks The Ranger’s staff does not accurately report on the matters of the office of student life.
Though it did not put us in a good light, as the opinion editor, I was excited to publish it.
A good letter is a good letter no matter whether you agree with what is being said.
That is what freedom of speech and the press are all about.
The author of this letter, however, didn’t understand their end of that social contract.
The author of the letter failed to put his or her name on it.
The author missed the most important part of his or her writing.
Whenever I write something, I have the courage and courtesy to put my name on it, and so do most of the other letter writers that have sent their views our way in the past.
Having a byline with your name stamped on what you write gives the reader assurance of accountability and the writer a foundation of integrity and character to stand upon.
Case in point, earlier this week, a reader who was the subject of one of my articles claimed that I had misquoted her and suggested that I did a poor job at reporting.
Because of the byline, she had the opportunity to hold someone accountable for misquoting her — me.
But also because of the byline, before I wrote the story, an impending byline prompts a reporter to be diligent, accurate and responsible.
So because my name was on that article, everything I wrote, I knew I was responsible for.
Therefore that byline saved me.
It saved me because I made sure to be prudent with my notes and make practical use of my digital recorder.
As a result, I had the quote recorded word for word.
A small victory, I know, but who really cares?
She’s still upset, and I still feel kind of bad about it, even though I was right.
And that’s the nature of journalism.
We constantly deal with negative issues, bad feelings and human mistakes committed by those we report on and by ourselves in the course of reporting.
But I am grateful for the byline.
It is the heartbeat of the newspaper, pulsating integrity and character among the negativity and pain that comes with investigation and reportage.
It also can be our downfall if we fail to report responsibly.
There are two sides to this wonderful coin that must be spent wisely when necessary.
I don’t know.
Maybe I’m making sense, or maybe I’m just whining about my feelings, but lucky for us, there’s a byline above these words for me to stand by and for you to be able to directly respond to.
Without it, journalism is just crass and meaningless, and readers are just stuffed with information without any truth or consequences.
I believe it to be the most important part of the newspaper. -It keeps us true.
What more could a reader want from a newspaper?
Who would’ve thought that the crux and weight and heart of everything we write lies solely on one little line that many readers never really see?