The Romenesko Affair: Seeking fairness in the tough world of news aggregation

For more than a decade, one of the most influential figures in the U.S. news media has been someone few people outside the business ever heard of, an ex-newspaper reporter in suburban Chicago named Jim Romenesko. His influence derived from his daily blog, which consisted of capsule descriptions and links to reporting about the media published elsewhere.

Newspeople followed Romenesko’s blog closely. It became the premier community bulletin board, directing the attention of journalists to controversies, scandals, layoffs, promotions, and newsroom foolishness of all kinds. The attention he gave, or denied, to the latest dust-up helped ensure its prominence or its obscurity. (I myself have benefited from his linking to my columns.)

Romenesko worked for the Poynter Institute, another powerful and little known force in the media. Poynter, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., is a nonprofit, mid-career training academy for journalists. Its seminars and conferences reach hundreds of journalists a year, and its website is an emporium of columns and service features on best practices of all kinds. Romenesko’s blog was a marquee attraction.

Together, Romenesko and Poynter have had major influence on professional standards and practices, so word that they parted ways after 12 years couldn’t fail to be big news, especially when the breakup was provoked by questions raised by the Columbia Journalism Review, the country’s oldest industry watchdog, about their own standards and practices. The ensuing row offers insight into one major area in which journalistic practice is evolving or, some might say, deteriorating.

At issue is perhaps the most valuable and most popular journalistic form to emerge in the digital era, the news aggregation site. Continue reading “The Romenesko Affair: Seeking fairness in the tough world of news aggregation”