New ideas on the old joint-byline question
Q: I currently work at a print and digital magazine. For our latest cover story, my colleague and I decided to work on this piece together and I have focused on getting the info and conducting interviews and getting people to talk to me. I hand over all of my notes. My colleague focuses on the end result of putting it all together into a well-written piece. I obviously help with that as well (he consults me on what flows well and I give slight editing feedback and filling in missing pieces), but he deserves most of the credit writing-wise.
A classy reporter will be generous with credit. I once worked with a reporter, Brian Flanigan, whose story came out with another reporter's name at the end as a contributor. The second reporter challenged that: "Hey, I didn't help on that story."
Flanigan said, "Yes, you did. You took a phone message when I was out. I needed that. Anyone who helps on my story gets their name on it."
My whole thinking on the issue of shared bylines is changing a little. The custom is to avoid using a shared-byline story as a clip. At most, we might want to have one on something big.
But with the way newsrooms are counting more and more on collaborations, a big story with a short note that defines your effort in the teamwork can be valuable.
And, when editors ask in an interview, "Are you a better reporter or a writer," you can answer, "I do both well. And I have played both roles as part of a team on a big or breaking story."
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Coming Thursday: How AP's decision to suspend internships for just one year has long-term effects