What Is a Byline in a Newspaper?

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A byline in a newspaper is the line giving the name of the article writer. The writer’s name typically follows the word “by.” The word “byline” originated in the United States around the year 1926.

As Reference Dictionary indicates, “byline” is a term used in newspaper journalism; however, the word is also further defined to recognize writers for magazine articles, Internet articles and blogs. The lack of a byline with a story, article or news item indicates that the material was provided anonymously. The inclusion of a byline enhances an article’s credibility by allowing the reader to question a source directly.

The American byline developed during the Civil War. At the time, most journalists did not publish under their names. In fact, most stories did not have a byline at all, which gave newspapers the freedom to publish information without fear of repercussions. However, Civil War General Joseph Hooker on the Union side eventually ordered that all journalists had to publish stories with their names attached, thus holding them more accountable for what they wrote and hopefully, stop them from publishing information that was critical to the war effort.