We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bylines

Megan McArdle explains why the “byline strike” by writers at WSJ is likely to be ineffective:

Quick test: before you read any further, think of an article you’ve read in The Economist in the last three months that was really memorable. Then try as hard as you can to remember the name of the guy who wrote it.

A couple of you may have figured out the catch: The Economist doesn’t have bylines. And yet I’ve only ever met one non-journalist who knew this without being told.

Not only that, but the two publications in question–WSJ and Economist.com–are the only mainline news publications whose content is almost entirely unavailable without paid subscription. Being the cheap bastard shrewd consumer that I am, I therefore get my news elsewhere.

What strikes me as interesting is that the opposite phenomenon seems to be in play in the Blogosphere. Bloggers almost invariably mention the name of other bloggers they cite in a post. Indeed, in many cases, I know the name of the blogger but not the name of the blog.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Boyd says:

    A year or so ago (I don’t recall exactly — it wasn’t important enough to remember exactly when), the reporters at The Washington Post did the same thing. I never heard of it having any discernible effect. With the vast majority of article I read in the Post, I never look at the byline.

    The only relatively consistent exception is when I see their Analysis subhead, which I realize is their code for Liberal opinion, and I look for Milbank’s name. It’s usually there, so I start looking for his hatchet.

  2. Blogger names and Blogs titles: Our Bear Flag League had a little luncheon a couple of months ago. Everyone ended up introducing themselves by their blog title rather than their name (or nom de plume) since that got blank stares. So I had to introduce myself as “Window Manager” instead of “Director Mitch”, ditto for Calblog, Interocitor, Baldilocks, etc.