The Media Oxpecker: Poynter’s Answer in Search of a Problem

The week 'everybody lost'

Every Friday we round up media & tech industry news you may have missed while you were busy dealing with real problems.

The following words were written by Jeremy W. Peters of The New York Times:

Jim Romenesko, the blogger who developed a large and loyal following by chronicling and summarizing news in the media world, quit his post on Thursday evening after a bizarre spat with the institute that hosts his writing.

An editor at Poynter, which purchased Mr. Romenesko’s blog 12 years ago, had questioned his failure to use quotation marks when summarizing articles in his daily round-ups of media stories — summaries that Mr. Romenesko never claimed credit for as his original work.

The following words were written by Choire Sicha of The Awl:

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. Charitable with links and naming bylines, and producing even more links when grubby reporters would come emailing with “but I posted that memo just now tooooo!”, the intention underlying Romenesko’s work has always been directing readers to reported material.

To be fair to Moos, though I don’t particularly care, in her position I don’t think she has any choice but to publish about this. It’s the sort of media “process” stuff that is Poynter’s bread and butter (along with initiatives like “Writing Better Headlines and SEO Essentials,” an online class you can take in February!). Moos is also too coy. She learned of all this “thanks to the sharp eye of Erika Fry, an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review.” What she meant was that Fry is working on a story about Romenesko and attribution, and so Moos went to publish first. I found that attribution a little incomplete.

The following words were written by Erik Wemple of the Washington Post:

Right here, in the heart of Journoethicsville, the hard reality of newsgathering reveals itself. Fry was sending Moos a set of on-the-record questions. On-the-record binds on both parties — the questions from Fry and the (eventual) answers from Moos. That means that Moos is perfectly entitled to use the questions for her own purposes, which she proceeded to do.

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.

The following comment was left on the website by former Village Voice blogger Foster Kamer:

Do you not understand how a blog works? Have you never read, I don’t know, the MediaBistro morning mailer, or Mike Allen’s Playbook? Readers have come to expect a certain form and style here that they’re accustomed to – it’s a fashion of aggregation/attribution that’s usually reserved for political/media trades – and Romenesko’s coherent, consistent methodology shouldn’t aggravate or confuse anyone but the most facile and/or tightassed of readers.

The following words were written by Felix Salmon of Reuters:

What Romenesko was doing — to spell this out — was aggregating and curating news about the media. He was not writing stories with lots of links in them: he was putting links together, and occasionally quoting from the articles he was linking to. Eventually, if you read him for long enough, you could start to discern what Choire describes as his “careful and sometimes sly” voice. But when Moos bellyaches about how “the words may appear to belong to Jim”, she’s spectacularly missing the point. The vast majority of Romenesko’s readers never even stopped to think that the words they were reading might “belong” to Romenesko in some way — they were always clearly attributed to the journalist he was quoting … Moos is using the standards of original journalism, here, to judge a blogger who was never about original journalism. Copy-and-pasting other people’s stories is what Romenesko did, at high volume, and with astonishing speed and reliability, for many years.

The following tweet was sent by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post:

Journalistic navel gazing at its worst … [@juliemmoos] should apologize to @romenesko first, then to all of us.

The following hashtag was tweeted by David Carr of The New York Times:


The following tweet was sent by Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated, referring to a completely unrelated matter:

I saw a girl crying tonight. When I asked why she said: “Because everybody lost.”

  • Wired has released all of its staff-produced photos for use under a Creative Commons license, which means that Wired photos will now regularly appear on this blog starting today. One observer suspects ulterior motives:

    This is one of the greatest link marketing schemes ever. We all remember that Google search rankings work in part based on how many incoming links reference a story. Well imagine that suddenly, you figured out a way to have hundreds or thousands of news outlets — websites that have very high Google rankings already — regularly pointing links at articles from your archives, for free …

    … I’m not saying there’s anything sinister about this scheme — in fact it’s brilliant. What’s more, in an era in which the price of a photo is rapidly approaching zero, thanks to ultra-cheap stock photo sites and the tons of great images already available on Flickr under a Creative Commons license, Wired may have just found a way to justify paying photographers fair wages for full rights to their work.

  • Here is an article with some excellent, practical lessons about SEO. A snippet:

    People search in Google because they have a question. Anticipate those questions — whether about the best style of yoga pants or where to get the lowest mortgage rate. Your keywords and the content on your pages should reflect the answers to those questions. Keyword research is tedious, but it’s arguably the most important aspect of SEO. Transition away from thinking of keywords like data, and put more of an emphasis on the person who will be typing in that keyword.

  • The following bullet points are links to stories written by other authors that we thought might be of interest:

  • How Adobe’s abandonment of Flash for mobile devices impacts news orgs.

  • Tablet News Readers Significant, But Only a Harbinger…

  • What we told current Journalism majors about working at startups.
  • 10 Tips and Tricks for Better Google+ Brand Pages.

  • Can Demand Media Wean Itself From Low-Grade Content?

  • 2012: Mobile Search To Comprise Nearly 22% Of Ad Spend

  • Groupon, Yelp Sued Over Mobile Commerce Patent
  • Many are working to secure a healthy future for investigative journalism.

  • John Robinson: “Find thinkers who will challenge you,” and more advice for newspaper editors.