She wants CREDIT for writing an article. Imagine that!

When the local newspaper failed to show up for the nursery school’s grand opening last weekend — to which it had been specifically invited — I thought, “Oh, who cares, I’ll just write the article myself and submit it to the paper.” So I did, and it was printed in this week’s edition of the Shoreline Beacon. Imagine my great surprise, however, when I discovered that I hadn’t been credited as the author. It was simply left blank, as if the article had been written by the regular newspaper staff. That was not okay with me, even if the article had taken me less than ten minutes to write. It’s still my work and I deserve full credit for it, as anyone would.

The next morning I headed straight to the office to ask why my name had been left off the article. The woman I spoke to seemed surprised at my question and told that she thought it’s standard procedure to leave the names off submissions sent to the paper. When I questioned her further, she said she’d get an explanation from her editor. I told her a correction is what I want, which she reluctantly agreed to put in next week’s paper and to change in the online edition — not that it does much for the current article in print, but at least it appeases slightly my injured sense of justice.

Upon returning home, there was an email from her in my inbox: “I was informed that our standard is to leave credit off submissions to differentiate what is produced by newspaper staff and what isn’t. In cases where credit is requested in advance we are happy to oblige.”

If credit is requested in advance, they will oblige?! I was furious. In what universe do these people live in, where it’s considered appropriate to use anyone’s work without credit? Giving credit is a dead-easy, two-word job that not only makes a publication professional and look classier, it’s also legally mandatory. Once I’d calmed down somewhat, I wrote back (among other things):

“Throughout my entire education, the one thing that’s been drilled into me repeatedly is to cite my sources, no matter how obscure, and if I can’t, then it’s essentially useless and I can’t use it. Why these universal standards should be any different for a small-town newspaper, I don’t understand. I highly recommend that you change this policy, as it would never occur to anyone to have to request credit ahead of time for something they’ve written.”

I’m still seething for this rather distasteful experience. I’ve already had a few run-ins with this newspaper that left me very unimpressed, so perhaps I’m overreacting, but when it comes to issues of legality and rights and plagiarism — there, I went and said the P word — I get defensive pretty darn fast. The newspaper can expect a letter to the Editor from me very soon, because they haven’t heard the last of this. All I ask is that, for every guest submission yet to come, the Shoreline Beacon has the decency to say who wrote it.

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14 thoughts on “She wants CREDIT for writing an article. Imagine that!

    1. Me too! If they don’t print your letter-to-the-editor then I’m on standby to bombard them with similar letters of disgust!

    2. Me too. Its a bad practice to print someone’s words without their credit. I had a letter in the paper years ago, and they printed my name because they won’t print anonymous letters to the editor! How’s that for double standards?!

  1. I’m disappointed whenever I see artists or writers getting short shrift on credit. It’s happened to me before…good for you in standing up for yourself.

  2. Good work for going in and requesting they change this policy! Like you said, it may have not taken you long to write but the fact is that YOU wrote it and deserve to be cited for your work. For writers everywhere 🙂

  3. I don’t know about where you are, but when I worked at local papers in the UK it wasn’t standard procedure for contributors to get a byline. People would submit small pieces on local events, perhaps even every week and they would go in without any names. As you have discovered, it’s too late after the event, so if you want a byline make sure you agree it with the publication beforehand – otherwise they’ll not consider it important to you or to them when they’re rushing to get a paper out. Also, staff journalists themselves do not get bylines for every piece – it’s part of the way newspapers hide how few people are behind the scenes writing the stuff.
    For me, there are instances when I don’t actually want bylines – for example when I’m writing smaller articles or wrting on behalf of other organisations and prefer to be anonymous, thereby keeping my bylines for the pieces that are stronger.

    1. That’s very interesting. Since I don’t have an official journalistic background of any kind, I’m woefully unaware of what goes on behind the scenes. Yes, I can see the sense in wanting to hide how few writers there are, but by crediting a guest submission, I’d assume that makes their paper look more diverse than by leaving it blank. Oh well…

  4. I think the paper’s behaviour is appalling! Their policy should be to always give credit, unless the writer has requested at the time of submission, for the paper not to use their name.

    I am not a legal expert, but it seems to me, absent a clearly defined, and available to the public, policy stating the paper’s terms with regard to guest submissions, they are treading on very thin ice indeed, from both a legal and ethical viewpoint.

    In your case, a reader will have assumed the story you wrote was done by staff and not a guest writer. By their very silence on the subject, the paper is implying the words are theirs and the reader will have credited such as well.

    Taking credit for another’s work is plagiarism. I am in complete agreement… the paper must redress this issue immediately!

    As a writer, I find it particularly troubling that a member of public media would have a policy to steal the work of others.

    I’ve a mind to write the paper myself and express my displeasure at their actions. I assume I can find contact information on their website, Katherine? I can not mention your name if you wish.

    Veronica Marie

    1. Hello Veronica,

      Thank you SO much for your fiercely loyal response and your offer to write a letter on my behalf. Apologies, too, for taking so long to get back to you. It’s been a hectic couple of weeks and my comment responses are sadly behind.

      I’ll admit that I’ve been losing steam over the holidays. I felt so angry about this before, and even though the paper didn’t publish the correction it had promised, I think I’m going to let go of this battle for now. Problem is, it’s a very small town and I’m still a relative newcomer and don’t want to create too much of a hullabaloo. Maybe this shows weakness, who knows, but I already wrote a highly opinionated letter to the editor and the reporter I dealt with, so they know where I stand. If anything else ever comes up, they’ll be hearing about it for sure.

      Anyways, if you still want to write to them in protest of their policy, you can find all the contact info at http://www.shorelinebeacon.com. The more of us who speak out about this ridiculous policy, the better!

      Thanks again 🙂

      1. You are very welcome! And I totally know what you mean about the least few weeks… wow! I love the holidays, but… lol!

        I don’t think that shows weakness at all… it is just being realistic to the situation and circumstances. And know which battles to pick… and when to walk away. I will be circumspect in my letter to the paper. Thank you for the paper’s link.

        I hope the new year finds you and your family well.

        Veronica Marie

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