In Defense of Jim Romenesko

Who would ever have believed that Jim Romenesko, the ace chronicler of journalism's foibles, would himself wind up the topic of a post in his own blog alleging malfeasance on his part. But incredibly, it's happened.

Problem is, the alleged misdeeds being attributed to Romenesko are, not to put too fine a point on it, horseshit.

If I understand the convoluted, garment-rending, self-flagellating post about the situation by Poynter Online Director Julie Moos correctly (no mean feat), Poynter has suddenly decided, after 12 years of running Romenesko's invaluable blog, that Romenesko has been lifting material from sources he cites without properly attributing it. Or, what Moos calls "incomplete attribution." Here's her allegation, in quotes, of course:

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.

Okaaaay. This is the Web, of course, and information is posted on blogs without quotation marks all the time. It appears Romenesko may have occasionally grabbed a few words here and there and incorporated them in his summaries of articles he linked to, but HELLO! They were summaries, credited to the source and linked to the originating site. Every reader understood that. Indeed, Romenesko all but invented the aggregated, curated blog, and drew enormous amounts of traffic to Poynter in the process. It's only now that his efforts and ethics are being questioned? C'mon.

But wait, it gets better. Moos again:

To our knowledge no writer or publication has ever told us their words were being co-opted. That raises some questions of its own. Surely many writers whose words appeared in Jim’s posts have read them there.

Nobody complained? Nobody? Wow, helluva problem you've got there, Poynter. And I'll speak from firsthand experience: Not only have I read Romenesko's blog daily, nay, hourly, since its inception, I've been lucky enough to have been cited and linked to in it more than a few times. Not once did it occur to me that Romenesko was improperly lifting my words, or anybody else's. As Moos admits, he always attributed his sources—sometimes to a fault—and I understood, as I thought everybody did, that he was providing a summary of my work, and others. I have zero problem with that—it's how the Web works, for chrissakes. And Poynter should have zero problem with it.

It's unfortunate, with Romenesko about to retire from his eponymous blog and move on from Poynter, that Poynter officials have chosen to besmirch his reputation and raise questions about his work in this way. It's a tempest in a teapot, one that could have easily have been handled internally. There was no need to make Jim Romenesko the subject of his own blog, especially after what he's meant to Poynter over the years. He deserves far better. Poynter officials should be ashamed of themselves.

 PS: Choire Sicha's take on this non-story is superb. Ditto Felix Salmon's.

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