It was reported last month that Wall Street Journal bosses decided that stories should generally have no more than two bylines. This policy, I’m told, “has already caused some fairly serious conflict between people who cover overlapping beats.”
A Journal staffer adds:
“We regularly cover stories that are enormously complex in geographic reach and subject matter. It’s often necessary to get know-how, reporting and sourcing from three or four reporters. But now since reporters are often not able to share credit, they are much more reluctant to keep each other in the loop or even help, lest they get scooped on their own beats or have to fight over who will write a story.”
The Journal’s newsroom union recently asked management about the new rule, and was told there is no byline policy. The union’s response: Wrong – and we have memos to prove it!
Here’s the union memo:
IAPE Directors in News Departments,
Many of you have asked about recent media reports, and in some cases, messages from managers, describing a new byline limit on WSJ stories. Yesterday, during our regular Labor/Management Committee meeting, we discussed the issue with management representatives from DJ Legal and HR departments.
Their response: no idea where this rumor came from. “We discussed this with News management, there is no new policy, there is no limit on bylines, and in fact, there is a story on page 1 today that has three bylines.”
Our rebuttal: that’s really strange, because we have copies of emails from managers explaining and reiterating the “new policy” limiting bylines to two per story (though noting that exceptions are always possible).
For what it’s worth, management appeared to be genuinely confused by what we told them. They pledged to go back to News management and find out exactly what has been communicated to management. They understand our position: that News staff should be properly credited for their work just as they always have – especially if News management intends to rely on bylines or taglines as some measure of productivity (which we also take issue with, but that’s another story for another day).
We’ll keep you all posted as our discussions with Legal and HR continue. In the meantime, if you receive any additional byline complaints from members, or if you have any emails from management that I can share with Legal/HR, please let me know.
Tim Martell | Executive Director
IAPE TNG/CWA Local 1096
I’ve invited editor Gerard Baker to settle the matter.