Romenesko Flap: A Non-Diverse Affair

Jim Romenesko (Illustration by Robin Eley)
Jim Romenesko (Illustration by Robin Eley)

The Poynter Institute's dramatic reproach of its pioneering media blogger Jim Romenesko, followed within hours by his resignation Thursday night, sent tweets flying and computer keys clicking, with discussions of media ethics thrown in for good measure.

But it was a discussion that largely took place in the absence of journalists of color.

Given the complexion of the media-criticism business, and the nature of the items chosen for Romenesko's blog, perhaps that was to be expected.


After all, as Jackie Jones explained in a story this year on, it was Romenesko's failure to include enough topics concerning journalists of color that led to the creation in 2002 of the online "Journal-isms," which had existed previously only in print.

"Among mainstream journalists, a column by media critic Jim Romenesko has become a staple about the news industry. In many ways, Journal-isms serves a similar purpose, only for and about people of color," Jones wrote. She quoted Dori J. Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

" 'That’s why we started it, actually,' said Maynard, president of the journalism training institute based in Oakland, California. 'I was so disturbed by Romenesko. There was [rarely] any notice of people of color.'

"Maynard cited a major promotion for NBC executive Paula Madison, a black woman, that never appeared in Romenesko’s column, even though, she said, 'I know people sent him the links' [to stories on various subjects].


"Then there was author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s now-infamous 3,400-word resignation letter to The Los Angeles Times in 2001 that called the newspaper’s diversity efforts and coverage into question.

" 'Her resignation letter went all around and just made e-mails everywhere,' said Maynard. 'It took Romenesko a month to six weeks to catch up.'


"Those examples, she said, 'show you how many people are being left out of the coverage. Then it turns out that the person who was critiquing the coverage was leaving out the same people.' "

Romenesko did not respond to a request from Journal-isms for comment. The supervisor to whom he submitted his resignation, Julie Moos, director of Poynter Online, said her email box was overflowing.


Both had reason to be busy Thursday night and Friday.

Here's how the Huffington Post began its Thursday night account:

"Just weeks shy of his planned semi-retirement, famed media blogger Jim Romenesko has resigned from his position at Poynter after being accused of improperly attributing quotes in his blog, Romenesko+.


"The charge came in an article written by Julie Moos, the director of Poynter Online, who said Romenesko's 'imperfect attribution' had failed to meet 'the highest standards of journalism excellence' that the site works hard to adhere to.

" 'Though information sources have always been displayed prominently in Jim's posts and are always linked at least once (often multiple times), too many of those posts also included the original author's verbatim language without containing his or her words in quotation marks, as they should have,' she wrote.


"According to her post, Romenesko offered to resign and she refused to accept his resignation at the time.

"At 8:15 p.m. on Thursday night, Moos published a second post, announcing Romenesko's departure."


Romenesko wrote to his Facebook followers Thursday: "Thanks to everyone for their support. I went to bed last night thinking this would be the worst day of my journalism career. I was wrong."

He asked, "Have I ever summarized your posts? Was I fair, or did you feel I stole your words? Please let me know." Some of the bold-face names in media writing answered with resounding support. "We all know @Romenesko could not be bought, rented or spun. So he gets pilloried for lack of quote marks? Stay classy, Poynter," tweeted David Carr of the New York Times.


Others said that they understood Romenesko's style of writing, that they felt it was clear he wasn't stealing others' words. But, as Choire Sicha explained in a blog called "Under the Bus: The Intolerable Evolution of Poynter's 'Romenesko+,' the environment in which Romenesko blogged had changed.

"The 'Romenesko' blog (launched in 1999!) was a one-man shop, under the corporate parentage of the Poynter Institute, until fairly recently.


"It was quite successfully run by its founder, Jim Romenesko, though you could tell every once in a while he'd go through periods of advanced boredom in covering media day-in and day-out. People (well, reporters and editors) mostly loved it; the headlines were, unusually, out-bound links. So it sent traffic. Romenesko's slight summaries were careful and sometimes sly. The 'technology' of the site as such was pretty laughable, down to the ridiculous URL. He was super-fast, he was fair and he was, very subtly, often dryly funny. Then Poynter got whorey.

"The headlines became permalinks to the site itself, so it stopped sending much traffic. The site became more 'social' in orientation. The posts got longer."


Others at Poynter started to contribute, and the blog became known not as "Romenesko," but "Romenesko+." However, under the new arrangement, more topics related to diversity, such as the dispute between the National Association of Black Journalists and Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., began to appear.

A few journalists of color did weigh in on the dispute. Karen Dunlap, president of the Poynter Institute and an African American, led a group of Poynter faculty members who published their views on the controversy on Friday. Eric Deggans, media writer for the Poynter-owned St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times and a black journalist, wrote a blog entry.


Jeff Yang, a columnist at the Wall Street Journal, expressed a widely shared view on Facebook.

"Not that anyone's asking me to chime in, but add me to the list of people who think that the way Poynter handled the Jim Romenesko situation was very close to worst-case," Yang wrote, referencing an online column by Erik Wemple in the Washington Post.


"Along with Wemple, I see Moos's point. I also think that there's something ironic (in the Morissetteian sense) about an institution dedicated to advancing journalistic standards publicly censuring a columnist who is himself an institution dedicated to advancing journalistic standards, based on an inquiry from an institution dedicated to advancing journalistic standards," a reference to the Columbia Journalism Review, which was working on a story that included questions about Romenesko's attribution.

"It smacks of circular firing squad to me, especially given the much larger, lower-hanging targets out there…which will now hang ever lower with Romenesko no longer spotlighting them, at least until he ramps up his personal site. All in all, a debacle that could have been easily avoided with a respectful internal memo, and a note from Romenesko himself indicating the reason for the new 'more and bigger quotes' policy."


David Gonzalez, a reporter at the New York Times, was another who posted on Facebook. Asked why he thought the Romenesko affair generated so few comments by journalists of color, Gonzalez responded with a compliment. "Don't have much to say," he said. "I read it less and less. Journal-isms had more appeal." The Journal-isms columnist tried out for the Poynter slot on Nov. 1. 

Steve Buttry blog, Journal Register Co.: Jim Romenesko’s offense was punctuation; Poynter shouldn’t have called it plagiarism  


David Carr, New York Times: Romenesko’s Posts Now Toast  

Eric Deggans blog, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: Kerfluffle over attribution leads online journalism pioneer Jim Romenesko to resign from Poynter job  


Karen Dunlap, Roy Peter Clark, Kelly McBride, Al Tompkins, Butch Ward, Rick Edmonds, Jill Geisler, Bill Mitchell, Poynter Institute:  Poynter faculty respond to questions about Romenesko’s practices, resignation  

Adam Clark Estes, the Atlantic: Media Critics Rush to Defend Jim Romenesko's Right to Quote  


Paul Farhi, Washington Post: Media blogger Jim Romenesko resigns from Poynter  

Adam Hochberg, Poynter Institute: Jim Romenesko’s departure sparks strong reaction, criticism


Huffington Post: Jim Romenesko Quits Poynter After Controversy Over Attribution  

David Kaplan, 'Original Media Aggregator’ Romenesko Resigns From Poynter Institute  


Hamilton Nolan, The Preposterous Plagiarism Assault on Romenesko  

Justin Peters, Columbia Journalism Review: Jim Romenesko Leaves Poynter  

Howell Raines, Portfolio: The Romenesko Empire [2008]  

Rem Rieder, AJR: No Way to Treat a Romenesko  

Felix Salmon, Reuters: Holding aggregators to journalistic standards  

Craig Silverman, Columbia Journalism Review: Some Thoughts on the Romenesko Affair


Talking Biz News: Romenesko resigns from Poynter  

Eric Wemple, Washington Post: Jim Romenesko’s resignation, and a scooped reporter


Why It Took So Long to Break the Penn State Scandal

"When Penn State fired head coach Joe Paterno on Wednesday, it was the culmination of a scandal more than 15 years in the making," Brent Lang and Lucas Shaw wrote Friday for


"So what took the media so long?

"The lapse can't be attributed merely to star-struck local newspapers or lazy national sportswriters, though that's part of the equation.


"Jerry Sandusky, a long-time assistant to the winningest coach in college football history, allegedly abused at least half a dozen young boys over more than a decade. Penn State administrators knew about it and law enforcement was investigating him.

"But a combination of other factors converged to keep the accusations under wraps, including:

"Shrinking news budgets that have undermined investigative journalism.

"A press-wary football program in a remote location.

"Police who reportedly dissuaded victims from talking to journalists.

"A lackluster response by Penn State that some have likened to a cover-up.

"A reticence to brand Sandusky as a pedophile without definitive evidence.

"In an op-ed about his paper's response to the saga on Thursday, David Newhouse, the editor of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, which broke the story back in March, wrote:

" 'The national media ignored it. Locally, we mainly received anger from some readers.' "


In New York's Daily News on Thursday, David Hinckley addressed Penn State students:

"The next time they feel like tipping over a news van, some of those Penn State students might want to consider the possibility that, given what we know, their former football coach Joe Paterno is getting pretty evenhanded treatment from the evil, bloodthirsty and amoral media." 


Howard Bryant, Penn State's failure of power  

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: The Cult of Joe Pa  

Andrew Gauthier, TVSpy: Media Quickly Became Target of Penn State Rioters  

Jodi Jacobson, Editor-in-Chief, RH Reality Check: Fifteen Adults at Penn State Knew About Child Sexual Assaults, Rapes and Did Not Act  


Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News: Joe Paterno's firing by Penn State was deserved  

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Herman Cain and Joe Paterno have things in common  


Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: PSU protesters blindly ignore real victims  

Jason Reid, Washington Post: Penn State trustees take immediate step that Joe Paterno should have  


Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Penn State's Joe Paterno should face charges

Ruben Rosario, St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer-Press: Amid the Penn State outrage, victims have been forgotten


Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: Firing Joe Paterno a start, but Penn State should forfeit Saturday's game

John Smallwood, Philadelphia Daily News: Eagles' Brackett reflects on Penn State scandal


Deron Snyder, Washington Times: Happy Valley? Not until the whole place is purged

Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle: Paterno out at Penn State; Asks students to pray for the victims


David Steele, AOL FanHouse: Finally, Penn State did the right thing

Jason Whitlock, Feds must investigate Penn State

Heads Could Roll Over Dog-Duck Story

"New details have emerged regarding the WCCO-TV story broadcast last Thursday that falsely claimed local dogs were being sold as meat for human consumption in New York City's Chinatown, and it doesn't look good for I-Team reporter James Schugel and his bosses," Kevin Hoffman wrote Friday for the City Pages of Minneapolis.


"The entire chain of command was involved in the decision to run what has become known as the 'duck/dog' story, all the way up to CBS corporate in New York, according to a WCCO newsroom source who spoke to City Pages on the condition of anonymity for fear of being fired.

" 'It was approved by multiple middle manager producers, and the CBS lawyer,' says the source. 'Our news director hasn't said a word, hasn't approached anyone in the newsroom about it. He may make heads roll before his head rolls.' "


Paper Spotlights Last Living Navajo "Code Talker"

"With gnarled fingers, Chester Nez reverently opened the small box his son Mike had fetched for him at their West Mesa home. Even at 90 years old, Nez’s face still beams as he proudly opens it," began a front-page centerpiece story Friday in the Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal.


"Careful not to touch the gold medal, Nez shares a secret.

" 'On the other side it says, "We used our language to defeat the enemy," and that’s what we did,' he said.


"Nez carefully puts the lid back on the box and hands it to his son for safekeeping. Inside is a Congressional Gold Medal — one of only 29 in existence — given to Nez by then-President George W. Bush during a White House ceremony July 26, 2001.

"Five of the 'original 29' Navajo Code Talkers, the men who developed and implemented the code that confounded the Japanese during World War II and was never broken, received the medals that day.


"In a moment that speaks to the reverence Nez holds for his country, instead of shaking the president’s hand after being handed the medal, he saluted Bush as his commander-in-chief.

"When the ceremony took place, five of the 'original 29' were living. Today, only Nez remains."


Private Eye Hired by Station Says Cain Is Telling Truth

"Private investigator [T.J.] Ward said presidential hopeful Herman Cain was not lying at a news conference on Tuesday in Phoenix," WGCL-TV in Atlanta reported Wednesday and Thursday.


"Cain denied making any sexual actions towards Sharon Bialek and vowed to take a polygraph test if necessary to prove his innocence.

"Cain has not taken a polygraph but Ward said he does have software that does something better.


"Ward said the $15,000 software can detect lies in people's voices.

"CBS Atlanta's Mike Paluska played Cain's speech for Ward into the software and watched as it analyzed Cain's every word.


" 'If he is hiding something this thing would have spiked way down here,' said Ward. 'He is being truthful, totally truthful. He is a man with integrity and he talked directly about not knowing any incident he is accused of.'

"The software analyzes the stress level and other factors in your voice. During the speech, when Cain denied the claims, the lie detector read 'low risk.' According to Ward, that means Cain is telling the truth."


Meanwhile, a poll of 1,000 voters by Univision and Latino Decisions found that a plurality of Latino voters picked Cain when asked their choice if the election were held today.

"Herman Cain emerges as the leader within the full sample, capturing 23% of all registered voters, and 24% of those who identify as Republican," Marisa Treviño reported on her Latina Lista blog. "The poll was conducted prior to a fourth woman emerging with specific allegations of sexual harassment against Cain, so it is likely that his support has dropped as a result of this recent development.


"Mitt Romney comes in second among all voters, trailing Cain by 5% among Republican voters and registered voters more generally."

According to Andrea Morabito of Broadcasting & Cable, "CNBC's Republican presidential primary debate Tuesday night delivered 3.3 million total viewers from 8-10 p.m., according to Nielsen."


Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR: Herman Cain And The Politics Of Race

George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Cain Isn't Able…to Keep His Lies Straight


Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: GOP Debate Ignores Wall Street's Role in Destroying Economy

Courtland Milloy, Washington Post: Scandals, scams during this election campaign distract from America’s real problems


Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: The Barack Obama of Aisle 11

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Romney and the Latino vote

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Issues, not idle gossip, rule the day during GOP debate


Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: In GOP debate, Rick Perry wasn’t alone in not making sense

2 Ga. Students Covering "Occupy" Spent 14 Hours in Jail

"The arrest of two university students who were covering 'Occupy' protests in the U.S. city of Atlanta for their campus newspapers has raised concerns about police treatment of student journalists," Scott Griffen reported Thursday for the Vienna-based International Press Institute.


"Alisen Redmond, news editor of the Kennesaw State University (KSU) Sentinel, and Judith Kim, a photography editor of the Georgia State University (GSU) Signal, were taken into custody while reporting on demonstrations near Atlanta's Woodruff Park on 6 November. The pair spent 14 hours in jail before being released and ordered to reappear on March 9, 2012 to face charges of 'obstruction of traffic', the Sentinel and Signal reported.

"The charges were upheld despite the fact that both journalists were arrested on a street that police had already closed to traffic, although pedestrians were apparently forbidden from entering as well. Ms. Kim told the Signal that she was unaware that being on the street would lead to her arrest and that police summarily took her into custody despite her yelling, 'I'm student media!' "


". . . In a letter to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a copy of which was obtained by the International Press Institute (IPI), Ed Bonza and Dr. Bryce McNeil, student media advisors at KSU and GSU, respectively, expressed 'strong disagreement' with the arrests of Ms. Redmond and Ms. Kim. The letter emphasised that the two students had 'properly addressed and acknowledged the orders of officers when vocalized at all times'."

Juan Gonzalez, Daily News, New York: Bloomy, Cuomo deaf to suffering masses


Chip Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle: Disregard for Oakland in Occupy, other protests

Chip Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle: Occupy Oakland needs to drop violence for words


Merrill Knox, TVSpy: Occupy Oakland Protestors Attack KGO Cameraman For Shooting Video of Murder Scene

Short Takes

"Layoff notices are being handed out across CNN/U.S. today. Photographers, editors and other staffers in Atlanta, New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Miami are being let go," Chris Ariens reported Friday for TVNewser. "In all, at least 50 positions are being eliminated. As many as 12 staffers in the Washington, DC bureau alone, four of whom are longtime photojournalists. CNN Senior VP Jack Womack writes in a note to staff that the cuts come after a 3-year analysis of the company’s work processes."


"At this time last year, Ted Williams — not the legendary slugger but the man with the golden voice — was homeless and bumming money on the streets of Columbus, Ohio," Jessica Heslam wrote Friday for the Boston Herald. "This week, his signature, baritone pipes officially debuted on New England Cable News as he became the voice of the regional network and its 9 p.m. newscast."

"As if looking at four years in state prison for his role in the King of Pop's death is not bad enough, Dr. Conrad Murray is also facing a lawsuit brought by a Newport Beach attorney on behalf of a Poway nuclear medicine imaging systems company," Matt Coker reported Friday for OC Weekly. "The complaint against Murray, MSNBC and other media companies demands Digirad Imaging Solutions be paid more than $147,000 the physician owes before he is paid anything for his exclusive interview in the documentary 'Michael Jackson and the Doctor: A Fatal Friendship' airing tonight."


"After much talk, first in Page Six, CBS News is bringing on Charlie Rose and Gayle King to front a revamped and, likely, renamed CBS morning news show," Chris Ariens reported Friday for TVNewser. "An announcement is expected Tuesday, sources tell TVNewser. The current anchors Erica Hill and Jeff Glor, who were named co-anchor and news anchor less than a year ago, will play a role in the new morning program."

Jefferi K. Lee, who for 17 years was executive vice president of network operations and programming at Black Entertainment Television, was named general manager of Howard University's WHUT-TV, the university announced Friday. "At the helm, Lee plans to realign the station and its strategic priorities around President [Sidney] Ribeau's vision of the University. This includes forming key partnerships with businesses, organizations and campus-wide collaboration," an announcement said.


"What goes around has come around in Arizona," Geraldo Rivera wrote Wednesday in his column for Fox News Latino. "Russell Pearce, the chief architect of SB1070, the Grand Canyon State’s mean-spirited, ill-conceived, provably self-defeating anti-immigration legislation has been driven from office. So anti-immigration hard-liners, beware. Harsh and divisive immigration scapegoating will not be tolerated by voters. The immigrant punching bag will hit back. Russell Pearce is out. Reason and civility are in. Bien hecho (well done), Mesa, Arizona."

"Several years ago, UCLA professor of cinema and media studies Chon Noriega teamed up with colleague Francisco Javier Iribarren to analyze a slice of AM radio’s dominant format, conservative talk," Richard Horgan wrote Wednesday for FishbowlLA. "The pair focused on two weekday programs, one of which, 'John and Ken,' has recently come under heavy fire for its on-air disclosure of a Hispanic public relations professional’s cell phone number. Final findings published this month show that both the KFI-AM 640 program and 'The Savage Nation' were guilty of four different kinds of hate speech, based on the analysis of separate 40-minute-block transcripts from late July 2008."


"WVUE-TV in New Orleans has agreed to carry new African American broadcast network Bounce TV starting this weekend," Jon Lafayette wrote Friday for Broadcasting & Cable. "New Orleans is the 20th largest market for African American households in the U.S. WVUE is owned by Louisiana Media Co., which is owned by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. Among the first Bounce TV programs WVUE will air on its digital channel 8.2 will be the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship football game, which starts at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday. The Elizabeth City State Vikings will play against the Winston-Salem State Rams."

"In 2012, The Poynter Institute will continue offering members of the Asian American [Journalists] Association, Native American [Journalists] Association, National Lesbian and Gay [Journalists] Association and the Journalism & Women Symposium a 20% tuition discount for On-site Seminars here in St. Petersburg, Florida," according to a notice on the Poynter site. "This offer will also apply to Online Group Seminars on News University, our e-learning site." The national associations of black and Hispanic journalists are not included. "The marketing folks at Poynter have been trying for some time to work with NABJ and NAHJ to make the discounts available. For it to happen, we need each group to run a tile or banner ad on their Web site that provides the discount code to members. We do the art work. In both cases, however, we've been unable to get someone to give us the technical specs necessary to create the art work," Butch Ward, Poynter's managing director, told Journal-isms on Friday.


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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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