Romenesko didn't do anything wrong
What the hell was Poynter thinking? The priggish and self-righteous individuals who hustled Romenesko out the door for this flimsy technical infraction owe him a major apology.
Romenesko pioneered a legitimate new journalistic format – and became a daily reading requirement in the process – by aggregating links to articles across the web that would, and should, be of interest to journalists and those of us who care about how our news is produced.
After arising every morning at an ungodly hour at his home in suburban Chicago, Romenesko culled key articles from the web and then published them in a terse, reader-friendly format that included a headline, prominent links to the original story and a few lines describing the article and why it was important.
Evidently weary of all those early wake-ups, Romenesko planned to retire by year’s end from the blog he created and sold to Poynter a dozen years ago. Instead, he resigned under pressure late yesterday for the goofiest reason you could imagine.
The kerfuffle that led to Romenesko’s abrupt departure from his eponymous blog was triggered by an inquiry from the Columbia Journalism Review that accused Romenesko of failing to put quotation marks around some passages from articles that he abstracted on his blog.
While it indeed would be an ethical and a journalistic breech for a writer to lift sentences and paragraphs from another article and pass them off as his own, Romenesko did no such thing. The whole point of his blog was to aggregate articles from other sources. The format of his blog left no question that he was abstracting the work of others and prominent links to the source of every item left no doubt as to their origin.
Even in the absence of quotation marks, no reasonable person – repeat, no reasonable person – could possibly conclude that he was doing anything other than what he did.
And he did it very well. At a time when the economic foundations and practice of journalism are being rocked by new technologies and disruptive publishing models, Jim Romenesko has been the cop on the beat, reporting the news and trying to keep us all honest.
He did an outstanding job. And he deserved a far better send-off than this.