Kerfluffle over attribution leads online journalism pioneer Jim Romenesko to resign from Poynter job
(UPDATE: Jim Romenesko has resigned from his job at Poynter, essentially asking to be released from his contract seven weeks before he was due to leave for other projects.)
Fair warning: this blog post is about to get so meta about insiderish media stuff, it will make your head spin.
The subject is a post I knew was trouble the moment the good folks at Poynter published it: an admission that aggregation godfather Jim Romenesko hasn't been properly attributing words written by other writers in links on his self-named media news website.
For those who don't know, Romenesko's site has been a favorite of reporters, editors, administrators and all sorts of folks connected to the media industry, especially in print. For about a dozen years, he's gathered together the most important news from all corners of the biz to one spot, creating an amazing platform for ideas and gossip that I have benefited from many times over.
No one ever questioned that Romenesko was simply directing people to other writers' work, with tartly-written summaries featuring lots of links and surprising gems from publications the muckety mucks of media often missed.
So when the current editor of the site, Julie Moos, admitted that an assistant editor at Columbia Journalism Review had dinged Romenesko for not using quotations marks to set aside words he didn't write, I knew trouble was coming.
Already, The Awl has complained about The Intolerable Evolution of Poynter's Romenesko+ writing "Poynter has worked systematically to erode a fairly noble, not particularly money-making thing."
Gawker declared "we must all come together to defend Jim Romenesko," while Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten tweeted "I think we should all mail @juliemoos a strand of hair, so she can split 'em for us."
I will admit readily that Moos is a friend and I support Poynter's ideals whole-heartedly -- separate and apart from the fact that the school technically owns the newspaper which employs me. So my conflicts here are many. But I still must say one thing.
The unfortunate truth is, technically, she's right. And worse, I suspect some bloggers are jumping on her because they do the same things, too.
My work is regularly linked by many blogs. And some of them regularly use long chunks of my writing without indicating that they are quoting my piece. And even though there are links provided, so much material is used that readers really don't have to click through to see my original story.
In a flash, my work has been appropriated to build traffic elsewhere. And it's considered okay in the online world because somebody put a link up.
Moos and Poynter, which spend a lot of space picking nits with other outlets for their transgressions, decided to pick their own here. I'm a little surprised to see Romenesko offered his resignation -- which Poynter smartly declined -- and sorry to see the response included placing an editor between his posts and publication.
But somebody has to start drawing lines here. And I don't blame Poynter for saying they want to be as specific as possible about what their writers write and what their writers quote.
I'll also admit those who say Romenesko+ has gotten a bit wonky and less dynamic have a point. That's often a consequence of having multiple people post on a blog and I'm hoping whoever gets the new media writer job gets some leeway to bring personality and quirky freedom to the site.
But seeing bloggers lambaste Poynter for wanting to follow its own rules strikes me as a bit self-serving and irritating.
And you can definitely quote me on that.