Tuesday, May 21, 2024 May 21, 2024
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THE STORY BEHIND THE BYLINE STORY

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Careful readers of the Dallas Morning News may have noticed something odd about the way this story about the battle for Haifa Street in Baghdad was credited on the front page of the paper yesterday. (I know, I’m late posting this. Work is hard.) It was a story from the New York Times, but the story’s 1A byline read “From Wire Reports.” At the end of the piece is when the source is finally identified. Why is that? Because the new Belo policy is to, in most cases, slap the “wire reports” tag on 1A stories, even if it is a one-source or mostly one-source story. The reason given in a long memo was that:

“…readers value our editing. They want us to save them time and effort by pulling together the best available wire stories on the topics that matter most to them. They don’t insist that we write the stories themselves. [And] we are a better newspaper when we distinguish between the news that is uniquely ours and the news that’s more of a commodity.”

Uh. O…kay.

Except we know that many great stories demand to be run as is from the Times or the Post, not as a compilation of five different newspapers. And, for what it’s worth, few in the newsroom believe that’s the real reason for the policy change. The current rumor with legs: Belo chairman, president, and CEO Big Bob Decherd got tired of answering the question, “Why are all the big stories on your front page from other papers?”

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