Sheron Boyle’s Press Gazette article condemning staff journalist for taking bylines from freelances last week prompted widespread support, including from the new editor of The Sun.
Despite the fact the article picked out the UK’s best selling newspaper for criticism, David Dinsmore thanked Boyle on Twitter saying she made a “very good point”.
With apparent backing from the new editor, Boyle believes speaking out could prove a positive for her freelance career. She said that staffers from other nationals have contacted her to commission work since the piece, making clear that using her byline would not be an issue.
Before she wrote the Press Gazette piece, colleagues warned Boyle that should could be blacklisted as a result.
Dinsmore was one of many journalists to comment on the issue, both on Twitter and on Press Gazette, following the article. And Boyle says she has personally received support from across the UK, the rest of Europe, Australia and India.
Some chose to remain anonymous, but others – like Boyle – chose to publicly condemn the practice of staffers taking freelance bylines.
She said that some freelances had been in contact with her to say that her article has made them feel more confident in speaking out on the practice of byline banditry.
“And the thing is that they don’t want to be identified, that’s why they’re not speaking out. But I’m not bothered.
“If every national turned against me, I would just go and work for the regionals again.”
She added: “I couldn’t let this go. It was grossly unfair and it’s not about being a journalistic diva – it is just, basically, credibility and your name on your work.”
AJ commented on the article saying: “I was sent to Kenya with PA and the article appeared in The Times with their reporter’s byline sat at her desk in the UK.
“Always wondered when friends of family asked her, ‘I didn’t know you were sent to Kenya?’, what her reply was…”
Another commenter, Paul Williams, said: “Bravo Sheron! This goes on far too much.
“Things are hard enough for freelancers. It’s about time freelancers were given the respect they deserve.”
Former News of the World journalist Tom Latchem, now a freelance, tweeted: “Debate over bylines is interesting. Since I went freelance I’ve had hundreds of page leads, spreads & splashes but barely one byline…
“I always find it easier to get stories in the paper [if] you don’t have your byline on them, and I know papers prefer to have staff bylines…
“Plus I’m way past the stage of caring whether my name is on a story these days. I’m more concerned about paying the rent…
“Of course, the decreasing and often shameful sums papers are paying for stories is the real scandal for freelancers, not byline banditry.”
He added: “If everyone had their byline there’d be hardly any staff ones as most comes from FLs.”
Elsewhere, Boyle said she was emailed by one freelance journalist who said: “She is speaking a truth that no one else dare utter; and has many years’ experience and is well respected by the freelance community.
“We at last have someone brave enough to speak-out and reveal how bad the situation is.
“The noose has been closing in on freelancers, the pay has been slashed and bylines stolen by staffers as a matter of routine.
“It makes it impossible for us to sell our work, we’re losing out at least twice on every story we sell.”
They added: “There seems to be a new brand of young commissioning editors with no real experience of life on the road and who seem hyper keen on putting their name on other writer’s copy.”
NUJ freelance organiser John Toner said: “Bylines are vital for freelancers in establishing their reputations.
“Denying bylines would prevent the freelance gaining recognition for his/her work and would make it difficult to prove to the potential client that the freelance has experience.
“Not only that, but if journalism is not properly credited how can the readers rely on the veracity of what they read. Readers need to know the author in order that they can judge whether the story is reliable. If a newspaper chooses to put a misleading byline on a story, it is legitimate to ask: What else about this is misleading?”
But one Press Gazette website comment on Boyle’s story suggested there may be good legal reasons for why freelances are denied a byline.
TC said: “I think the main reason for the policy of always using staff bylines on stories is a legal one – the staff reporter is carrying the responsibility for the story.
“Obviously some stories are far more likely to be contentious than others, but if there is legal comeback on a piece the staff reporter has to defend it, not the freelance.”
Sheron Boyle can be contacted on Twitter via @SheronBoyle1.