THE TALK TURNED to bylines during the annual roundup of Baltimore Sun pensioners recently at the Engineering Society.
Nowadays, exactness is the thing -- the name on a newspaper piece must be that of whoever had the main role in writing it.
Sometimes a piece is held over a day or two before use, and John McDoe or Mary O'Roe may thus have two, even three bylines in a single issue (making up for parched, no-byline interludes).
Even if the place-names vary, and Kathy Lally seems to have been simultaneously in Archangel and Vladivostok, nevertheless she filed those dispatches so her name goes on them.
It used to the other way around. By order of the highest command, a reporter was not to have more than one byline. Should two pieces happen to be by the same person, one must appear under another name. It was up to the writer to contrive a pseudonym.
This was in the 1950s and '60s. The Sun's library workers, filing those pieces, weren't amused. Some confusing christening did occur. Everyone's favorite at 1992's rally-round was R. E. Wright. This was a pun; it meant an editor had dumped someone else's misbegotten piece on your desk with the order to rewrite it.
Now it can be told: By James C. Bertram meant the piece was by William Stump, who esteemed an uncle of that name. Muriel Dobbin was from Scotland; ergo, Heather McDonald. James Gasque's stamp column was really by Jesse Glasgow; Florestan Croche, on phonograph records, was Weldon Wallace. From family names, Hervey Brackbill assembled Henry C. Rauch. Richard Christopher Stephen could be rightly suspected of being James H. Bready's three young sons. One's own middle name plus a female-side name changed Cherrill M. Anson into Miriam Shaw, Kathryn A. Geraghty into Ann Dillon, Harold A. Williams into Anthony Smith.
None of these alter egos was ever exposed by the act of prize-winning -- maybe prize contests were fewer then. In some instances, the underlying identity has been forgotten (sorry, librarians); Audrey Bishop had another name and Ralph Reppert had three, but what were they?
Ultimately, the topic ran down. Several alumni/alumnae were heard taking credit for R. E. Wright. That is, trying to put their HTC name on it.