Media blogger Jim Romenesko resigns from Poynter

November 10, 2011

A blogger who pioneered the practice of collecting news about journalism and the media industry resigned from his job Thursday after his editor publicly questioned his own journalism standards — in particular, whether he was giving proper attribution to the news sources mentioned in his daily posts.

Jim Romenesko, whose daily blog on the nonprofit site Poynter.org has been a must-read for thousands of journalists, quit the organization after his editor, Julie Moos, posted a column questioning his methods.

Since starting his blog in 1999, Romenesko has compiled a wide-ranging list of articles about newspapers, TV news, news Web sites and media personalities, as well as journalism issues in general. His method has been to create a synopsis of each story with a headline that linked to the original source material.

In her column Thursday, Moos took Romenesko to task for not disclosing in each of his descriptive synopses that he was using the same language used by the reporters of the articles he was blogging about.

“Though information sources have always been displayed prominently in Jim’s posts and are always linked at least once (often multiple times), too many of those posts also included the original author’s verbatim language without containing his or her words in quotation marks, as they should have,” she wrote.

The column — essentially a public rebuke of Romenesko — stirred a strongly negative reaction from journalists, many of whose work Romenesko has blogged about over the years.

Although some journalists believe that bloggers should never use another writer’s words without clearly using quotation marks, journalists had not publicly complained about the manner in which Romenesko described their work in his blog.

In a thread attached to the Moos column, the majority of commenters said it was generally always clear that Romenesko’s descriptions came from the underlying articles.

In an e-mail Thursday to The Washington Post, Romenesko, 58, said he is leaving Poynter six weeks before his contract with the organization was to expire. He said that he “thought it was best to leave Poynter after these ‘imperfect attribution’ charges were leveled against me. My heart was no longer in the job.”

The organization first raised its concerns Wednesday, apparently after the Columbia Journalism Review questioned Moos about Romenesko’s blog for an article.

A subsidiary issue also arose: Romenesko plans to start a new site, JimRomenesko.com, in late December. A day before the attribution issue arose, he said, Poynter expressed concerns that his new venture would compete with Poynter for journalism-related advertising.

Moos, in an e-mail to The Post, said she did discuss the advertising issue with Romenesko two days before his resignation, but any conflict had been “resolved” before he resigned. She said Poynter won’t place any restrictions on Romenesko as he seeks advertising for his new site.

“I wondered if they were trying to discredit me so advertisers wouldn’t touch me,” Romenesko wrote in his e-mail to The Post. “I have no evidence, though, that that was their motivation.”

He had no direct comment on Moos’s column, which did not mention competitive advertising concerns.

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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