What Exactly Are Bylines?

By September 12, 2017Research Tips

If you have submitted an article to the History Unfolded site, you may have questions about a field on step 3 of the submission process: Author/Byline


What does Author/Byline mean? The byline gives the name of the author of the article. When completing this field, you should be considering the following:

  1. Is there a named author?
  2. Is there a wire service listed: AP, UP, or “by the Associated Press”?
  3. If neither of those appear, then and only then can you leave the field blank.

If there is a named author, you will usually find it directly below the article headline and sub-headline. For instance, in this Christian Scientist Monitor example below, Mary Hornaday wrote the article.

Named Author

Refugee Board’s Aid Mainly Moral. The Christian Science Monitor. 1944-01-26

Authorless? Not quite.

Often, however, you will not see a named author. Why? One reason is that it was not common in the 1930s and 1940s for newspapers to identify the writer of each story. Another reason is because newspapers often subscribed to wire services to keep their readers informed about national and international events. Wire services like the Associated Press (AP), United Press (UP), or International News Service (INS) covered global stories and distributed them for newspapers to print.

While local paper staff did not write these stories, they still typically wrote the headlines and sub-headlines.

If you cannot find a named author, look for a wire service byline. It usually appears after the location and date (see next image.) It is common to see wire service bylines simply written as “(AP)” or “(UP)” or “(JTA).”

UP Byline

200 Jews Reported Executed By Nazis. The Richmond (CA) Record-Herald. 1938-11-19

Submission Conventions

When you submit articles to the History Unfolded website, please include the byline. If the byline is written out as “Associated Press” or “United Press” please type it as “AP” and “UP” in the field, without parentheses, to help keep the entries consistent in the database. If there is a named author, and a wire service organization listed, include both. If the article includes information about what job title the named author had with the paper, include this as well. For example, if Richard McMurry, the Associated Press war editor, wrote a piece, write: Richard McMurry (AP War Editor). Here are some other examples of common situations you may come across:

Byline Chart

Other Author/Byline Resources

If you are interested in learning more about American newspapers during the time period, check out “How Americans Got their News in the 1930s and 1940s” and “How to Read Newspapers from the 1930s and 1940s.”