Stu Bykofsky Demands Daily News Remove His Byline from Article

Here's the story behind the newsroom drama.

Photo by Victor Fiorillo

Photo | Victor Fiorillo

If you happened to pick up a copy of the Daily News on Monday at your local newsstand, one thing you wouldn’t have seen in it was a column from Stu Bykofsky. Oh, the longtime Daily News staffer did write a story, which wound up online and, apparently, in a home delivery edition, but it was omitted from the majority of the newspapers out there. So what gives?

The story in question is about Mary Frances Housley, a 24-year-old flight attendant who lost her life while saving others after a 1951 plane crash at Philadelphia’s airport. Why does this matter today? Because, as Bykofsky explains, the airport’s memorial to Housley is in an area of the facility that sees no passengers, so no one passing through gets a chance to learn her heroic story.

Bykofsky finished the column and sent it to fellow Daily News columnist Will Bunch, who happened to be in the city editor seat on Sunday.

So far, so good.

But then on Sunday night, Bykofsky’s column wound up in the hands of an Inquirer copyeditor. Prior to last year’s restructuring, which melded the staunchly separated and fiercely competitive newsrooms of the Daily News and Inquirer, that wouldn’t have happened. The tabloid’s columnists always had their own style, their own rules, their own copyeditors.

Now, though, it’s a new world. A new reality. And there was one line in Bykofsky’s column (we don’t know what it was) that really stuck in the craw of the Inquirer copyeditor. The parties involved all went back and forth, but the copyeditor wouldn’t budge, and so Bykofsky decided to play a rare card: He demanded that the newspaper run the story without his byline.

“Contractually, the reporters have the right to demand that their byline is not in a story if they feel the story was edited in a way that doesn’t reflect what they wrote,” explains Bill Ross from the Newspaper Guild, the union that represents Bykofsky and the newspapers’ other journalists. “In the last 15 years, I can only think of two or three times where that has happened.”

Pulling a byline from a straight-up news report is one thing, but running an opinionated first-person column without a byline doesn’t make sense. And so on Sunday night, the order went out to kill Bykofsky’s column from Monday’s paper. The deadline for the one home delivery edition had already passed, so it ran there with the copyeditor’s change and with Bykofsky’s byline.

Newsroom sources say that this is just the kind of chaos that they were worried about when the newsroom merger went into effect. “It’s an illustration of the friction between the two papers and how the so-called seamless melding of the two staffs is not really seamless and not working the way they thought it would work,” says one. “There are institutional differences.”

Daily News editor Michael Days wouldn’t get into the specifics of the dispute but insists that a version of the story will run in Wednesday’s print edition of the Daily News — with Bykofsky’s name on it.

“This was the result of some internal confusion, and I have been assured it will not happen again,” the columnist told us. “I certainly hope that’s the case, as I dislike having to deny Daily News readers the literary genius of my column.”

Oh, Stu.

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