It only took him three tries, but after 12 years, the legendary media blogger and journalism evangelist Jim Romenesko is finished with the Poynter Institute. Romenesko hastened his early retirement following a hotly controversial blog post from his editor, Julie Moos, who accused Romenesko of sloppy attribution and notified Poynter readers that he'd been placed on a probation of sorts. Poynter readers were not pleased. However, much to Moos's chagrin, the very journalists who Romenesko supposedly ripped off were practically insulted by the post in the first place.
Julie Moos at Poynter announced Romenesko's departure briefly and generously tipped her hat to his career there:
The abrupt conclusion of Jim's tenure with Poynter should not overshadow his unmatched contributions; he changed Poynter, he changed journalism and he changed newsrooms.
Poynter Commenters hurled some vitriol in the comments. This one from "meckdevil" earned the top comment spot with 59 likes:
What a despicable way to treat a quality man and a quality journalist. And what a smarmy, untruthful post.
Jeremy Peters at The New York Times talked to Jim Romenesko about his resignation:
In an e-mail, Mr. Romenesko said he would rather have seen his 12-year run at Poynter end on better terms. "This really did throw me for a loop," he said, declining to comment further. "I think I'd probably prefer to go quietly."
Erik Wemple at The Washington Post talked to Erika Fry, the Columbia Journalism Review assistant editor that initially raised the issue of Romenesko's aggregation practices with Moos. Many agree that Moos hijacked Fry's story:
Reporters worry about this dynamic all the time, whenever they have a scoop on the local utility or a politician or a celebrity. Those subjects have the media savvy to preempt the reporter, leak the story and wrap it in their own spin. Best to have the story all dressed up before making that final request for comment, a consideration for Fry the next time she’s got a bombshell for Moos.
Fry isn't too excited about the turn of events: "I'm not sure exactly how I feel," she says. "I mean, I still plan to write something and it's a broader story, so in some ways I kind of wish I had written my story first."
Choire Sicha at The Awl, weighed in quickly and we quoted him in our initial coverage, but this point is worth resurfacing:
Romenesko's entire practice was about giving credit, in ways that virtually no other blog has been, a position that "Romenesko+" does not embrace as strongly. Poynter has worked systematically to erode a fairly noble, not particularly money-making thing as it works to boost "engagement" and whatever other (highly transitional!) web "best practices" are being touted at the heinous "online journalism" conferences that regularly go on.
David Carr at The New York Times wrote a tribute of sorts to Romenesko's career on Friday morning:
Out in the civilian world, his departure is, umm, less than seismic. But to those of us who read and followed him, it seemed like an ill-advised way to end a run that was remarkable in all aspects. He was a proto-blogger, helping to define the form; an arbiter and observer of the great unwinding of journalism; and an eerily fair aggregator of other people's work.
Felix Salmon at Reuters flags the social media policy (well, lack thereof) that John Paton enforces at the Journal Register Company as a better example of how news organizations ought to keep themselves away from mishandling subjective situations:
Petty bureaucrats like Moos love to codify things, so that they can cite chapter and verse when telling people off. But if you're running a grown-up media organization, please: follow Paton's lead, and not Moos's. Journalists will behave unethically, sometimes. When they do, they should be reprimanded or even fired. But basic common sense is always the best guide to whether a journalist has done something wrong. And when Julie Moos presumes to judge Jim Romenesko by the standards of a Moos-written rulebook, it's right and proper that the wrath of the Twittersphere come down on her as a result.
Justin Peters at the Columbia Journalism Review does not reserve criticism for Moos but presents the only real defense of her post. Well, he's mostly criticizing the critics, but Moos surely appreciated the ideological support from a colleague nevertheless:
If I were in Julie Moos's position, I would have handled this much differently. (I would have started by reversing whatever ill-conceived summertime directive forced Romenesko and his assistants to expand their posts to four times their necessary length.) But it is odd to criticize a journalism ethics institute for caring too much about journalism ethics, and it is disingenuous to say that there was no error here out of a historical respect and affinity for Jim Romenesko (and the traffic he commands) and an uncertainty about whether aggregators should be subject to the same rules as other journalists.