Notes From our Online Readers

Readers respond to Erika Fry's "The Romenesko Saga"

In early November, CJR’s Erika Fry contacted the Poynter Institute with questions about new aggregation practices at its popular Romenesko+ blog. The result: Jim Romenesko’s resignation, widespread online outrage, and reams of commentary on aggregation standards in the link-and-summarize era. “The Romenesko Saga” was Fry’s blow-by-blow account of the bizarre affair:

A fine piece that raises some important questions—especially on over-aggregation—and clearly isn’t a hit piece on Jim Romensko. The overreaction by Julie Moos and Poynter is the problem. I don’t think any reasonable journalist trying to navigate the ever-evolving digital waters should have a problem bringing up these issues. Again, I don’t see attribution as the main problem here, until the longer posts showed up and discouraged click-throughs. The anger isn’t and shouldn’t be at Erika but at Poynter and Moos for sliming Jim. —Brian O’Connor

I’m a big fan of Jim Romenesko. I have gone to his blog several times each weekday for the past ten or so years, and found it interesting, informative, and admirably evenhanded in laying out journalistic shortcomings.

However, Jim should have been using quotation marks or some other clear means to identify words that he took directly from others. I believe that clear attribution is fundamental to quality journalism that enables readers to evaluate information and that makes fair use of the thoughts and words of others. I realize aggregation is evolving rapidly, but I think it and other emerging forms of quality journalism need to respect this fundamental value of clear attribution.

Some maintain there was no need for quotation marks when he was using the exact words from the linked material. But Jim’s own posts undercut this argument. In reading his Rahm Emanuel item, I was struck that Jim had chosen to enclose in quotation marks 11 of the 72 words that his lede took directly from the Chicago Tribune story. Clearly, he didn’t believe the accompanying link to the full Tribune story constituted adequate attribution for those 11 words.

Basically, I believe Jim just needs to remember to practice journalism of the same high quality—including the nitty-gritty of attribution—that his blog consistently urges all journalists to aspire to deliver to their readers. —Barney Calame

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.