After more than a decade as the go-to blog for commentary about journalism and the media, blogger Jim Romenesko has resigned following a critical blog post by his own employer, the nonprofit Poynter Institute.
In a post on Thursday, Poynter editor Julie Moos accused Romenesko of "a pattern of incomplete attribution" in blog posts, which often link to one or more outside sources to explain media coverage of current events. Moos wrote that despite the links to other sources, Romenesko sometimes included complete phrases written by others without quotation marks. The post concludes with Moos saying that Romenesko’s work for Poynter would change "in a few important respects," including strict adherence to Poynter’s attribution policy and prior review of posts before they could be published.
Many journalists and readers were quick to jump to Romenesko’s defense in the post’s comments section, which has so far drawn 219 responses, saying links in Romenesko’s posts made his sources of information clear. Romenesko fans also point to the fact that Moos conceded in her original post that she wasn't aware of any writer or publication ever complaining that "their words were being co-opted."
Evidently, the criticism and editorial changes were also not met with enthusiasm by Romenesko, who resigned late Thursday and sent an email to the Washington Post saying: "[I] thought it was best to leave Poynter after these ‘imperfect attribution’ charges were leveled against me. My heart was no longer in the job." He said the issue was first raised on Wednesday, after Moos was questioned about the blogger’s style in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review.
But the plot thickens. Romenesko had also been planning to launch his own website, jimromenesko.com, in late December. Just one day before the attribution charges arose, Romenesko said Poynter—an organization focused on journalism ethics and training—had expressed concern about competition for advertisers with his new site. "I wondered if they were trying to discredit me so advertisers wouldn’t touch me,” Romenesko told the Post. “I have no evidence, though, that that was their motivation."
For her part, Moos said the advertising issue had been "resolved" and that Poynter will not place any advertising restrictions on Romenesko, whose contract with the organization was set to expire in six weeks. In a post Thursday night announcing Romenesko’s resignation, Moos said that although the circumstances of the departure were not ideal, "he changed Poynter, he changed journalism and he changed newsrooms."