Custom roles in WordPress not appearing in author lists

January 5, 2012 | Bug of the Day, Thoughts from the team

A quick little post from me today to explain a bug that stumped me for a couple of hours this morning in wordpress.

WordPress supports custom roles, either defined by a plugin or custom code in your plugin or theme, such as:

//Base the new role on the existing "editor" role
$editor = get_role('editor');
//This function only ever does something once - the first time its run.
//Once the 'staff member' role exists, it returns NULL each time.
$staff_member = add_role('staffmember','Staff Member',$editor->capabilities);

The problem is, your nice shiny new user won’t appear in the author list on a post or page, so you can’t ever set them as the post/page author.

This is a known bug in wordpress that was reported 10 months ago ( and is the result of complications from changes wordpress have made to the user role system over the last few years.

The fix is actually relatively simple, but a touch backwards – You need to add a capability to the user of ‘level_1’, a deprecated role which shouldn’t be required, and actually does nothing but fix this bug.

//Get the role again - need to do this incase the role already exists, and add_role returned null.
$staff_member = get_role('staffmember');

Any new users with the role of “Staff Member” will now appear in the list. Another issue applies to existing users, though. While they’ll have the new level_1 capability, wordpress won’t update them in its database to have the old style user_level option (which is now deprecated, anyway).

The fix for existing users is a bit lame: You need to change them to be another type of role, and then back to Staff Members – I think this is a bug in itself, and have submitted the issue to the wordpress developers (

I hope this helps some of you out!

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