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  • Writer's pictureViva Sarah Press

When online sites replace your byline

When a publication updates an article, the byline may be changed.

This has happened to me many times. I have written original copy, and if it is updated by someone else, I’ll often lose my byline.

It happens to many journalists and has become part of the business (unfortunately). Some sites don’t change bylines at all. Others change them because of the update. And there are those that change bylines seemingly to be mean.

Because this is happening, new journalists and old journalists alike now need to screenshot their published works.

In the academic world, no one would replace your authorship. They would reference you. Not replace your name. In the world of journalism, if the article is updated -- the journalist often loses her or his byline. The article was updated. New byline.

There’s another practice in the world of journalism that makes even less sense: publications that republish articles word-for-word, without any sort of update, but replace the byline because…. Um… I actually don’t know why they do this.

An example: an article I wrote in 2013, was published on an online site under my byline. In 2014, it was published by another publication -- under my name. In 2019, it was published again (same wording exactly) by the original online site but this time with a generic “staff” byline. My byline was removed even though no update was made to the original text (amazing that six years later the piece still holds, but that's another point).

Back in 2007, Associate professor of journalism Elizabeth Zwerling wrote an interesting piece about rewriting history and whether editors should alter online content. She was referring to corrections in published text. Does the same apply to editors who are altering bylines? Why would a publication remove a byline if the text hasn't changed? (Perhaps the third reason for why a byline is changed, mentioned above). Does an evergreen article become "new" if there's a new byline? Would an author of a book be okay with it if a previously published edition of a book was republished under a different name? What do you think?

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