Poynter faculty respond to questions about Romenesko’s practices, resignation

Given that Poynter is a school, with a faculty, it’s probably no surprise to anyone that we don’t agree on the severity of Jim Romenesko’s attribution transgressions. And nobody’s telling us to keep quiet either. To that end, we bring you a diversity of thoughts from the Poynter teaching faculty:

Karen Dunlap, President

Roy Peter Clark, Vice President and Senior Scholar

Kelly McBride, Senior Faculty for Ethics

Al Tompkins, Senior Faculty for Broadcast

Butch Ward, Managing Director

Rick Edmonds, Media Business Analyst

Jill Geisler, Senior Faculty, Leadership and Management

Bill Mitchell, Leader of Entrepreneurial and International Programs

Karen Dunlap, President

We wrote a centerpiece yesterday to show that we make mistakes, too.

The piece began:

Poynter.org works hard to meet the highest standards of journalism excellence, and I [Julie Moos, director of Poynter Online] learned late Wednesday that we have not consistently met those standards.

Our site parades goof-ups and misdeeds by others regularly, and Poynter faculty speak out on ethical lapses and questionable practices by others, so when we noted our faults we opted for transparency.

The practices were about us, Poynter, but the case focused on our colleague — now former colleague — Jim Romenesko.

The centerpiece addressed conventions of aggregation vs. standards of attribution and editing vs. autonomy. Internal decisions were about a public discussion vs. quiet internal changes in practices, or no changes at all.

Several of us were involved, not just Julie Moos. We didn’t all agree. As president, I had the last read. Our conversations were primarily about our standards, our practices, not about taking a stand against a valued contributor.

Did we make the right choices? Not all of them. Could we have improved the message or tone? Yes. Should we have even raised the issues discussed? Yes, we should have. Practices of attribution are changing in ways that harm journalism. That’s an area that needs addressing in useful discussions. We chose to look through the lens of practices that we helped create and are now changing.

Should we have found examples other than the Romenesko blog? Not when we anticipated a piece on questionable attributions by a CJR reporter.

Some mention that we have lost Romenesko, the blog. Poynter had gone through the grief of that change which was scheduled for the end of the year, but I regret a breech with Jim Romenesko, a good and private guy. I also regret the storm that rained down on Julie Moos.

Where does Poynter go from here? We will do what we have watched other strong organizations do when their missteps appear on poynter.org. They review their actions and processes. We have already begun. Then they pick up and move on. That’s what we are doing. After all, we make mistakes too.

Roy Peter Clark, Vice President and Senior Scholar

Jim Romenesko is not, repeat only louder, NOT a plagiarist.

I write even that defense with hesitation for fear that some search engine will connect him with a serious literary crime: stealing the work of others without attribution.

No one at Poynter, including Julie Moos, claimed that Jim was a plagiarist. She was alerted to the fact that Jim’s blog summaries of the work of others contained too many words that were not his own. Without quotation marks.

I’ve seen several examples of this, a practice Jim has followed at Poynter for more than a dozen years without complaint from sources, editors, or readers. Most of Jim’s fans think he did nothing wrong and has been treated badly, arguing, in a sense, that aggregation – with linking – serves as a new form of attribution.

This is the kind of issue that Poynter tends to love. Is Jim Romenesko — one of the founding parents of the aggregated blog — an author, subject to the most traditional standards of attribution and quotation? Or is he more like a whiz-bang wire editor, a skilled news thinker who cuts and pastes together the best materials from a variety of sources?

I wish someone could give Poynter a Mulligan, golf’s term for a do-over. Poynter could have taken more time — the co-author of good judgment — to sort through the nuances of borrowing and attribution. We could have argued more among ourselves before Elvis (my nickname for Romenesko) left the building.

Jim’s departure under the false shadow of plagiarism is unfair to Romenesko and unworthy of Poynter. I expressed that opinion, with some anger, at a Poynter staff meeting this morning. Some folks seemed to agree while others, including President Karen Dunlap and Dean Stephen Buckley, backed Julie’s editorial decisions all the way.

That should be an object lesson for those who dismiss the work of Poynter as too pointy-headed and monolithic. On many subjects that we help journalists tackle, especially when it comes to ethics and standards, there is no official ex cathedra point of view.

Rather than discourage minority reports, we are encouraged to express them as part of the conversation about craft and values – as I am doing now.

I admire Julie’s perseverance over the last few days, tolerating not just pointed criticism, but scurrilous personal attacks in the service of debate and transparency. Whatever you may think of the standards she is imposing on those who write for Poynter.org, do you think that standards for bloggers should be looser? Is the wild west not wild enough?

I think most bloggers – including Jim – should tighten up some. But, just as important, I think Poynter should loosen up.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the last few days about Poynter, and about those who read us:

  • We tend to confuse standards and practices with morality and ethics. Everyone would have been better served by bringing folks together to clarify our standards on attribution and aggregation, insisting in private that Jim follow these for two months, and then send him off with our thanks and a $50 Starbucks card.
  • The word plagiarism should be saved for the most grievous offenses. Although I have written about plagiarism since 1982, when I dubbed it “the unoriginal sin,” I now think of the word as radioactive. When people hear the phrase “involuntary manslaughter,” we know that it is a much lesser offense than “murder in the first degree.” We lack the vocabulary to make these distinctions, beyond fair use, when it comes to intellectual property.
  • By writing what amounted to a public apology for not attending to Romenesko’s methods, we invited others to call what he did plagiarism. And they have. This is unfair to a person who, more than anyone who has ever worked here, put Poynter on the digital map. I’ll speak for myself: Jim, I’m sorry for what has happened to you on the way out the door.
  • Because Poynter is asked to evaluate the judgments of others, we can be very tough on ourselves. Fair enough. A good conscience is one thing. Public self-flagellation quite another. We teach people to follow a process in making even deadline decisions, to seek alternatives, to weigh the options, to minimize harm.  But in this, and too many other cases, we come across as rule-givers: arrogant, self-important, and dogmatic.
  • At a time when journalism is taking different forms, from tabulation to curation to aggregation, it is self-defeating to demand that new wine be served in old skins.  The standards of attribution we still apply in print may in fact be outdated in the age of sampling, file sharing, and mash-ups. There are enduring standards, to be sure, and we should be influenced by them. But the cultural mores governing intellectual property have been in constant flux for centuries and are currently under special strain.

In short, do we at Poynter want to be a key player in the evolution of journalism and the cultivation of a Fifth Estate? I think the answer from all corners of the Institute would be yes. If that is our mission, we must cultivate not moral relativism, but a well-intentioned pragmatism that looks ahead, rather than over our shoulders.

Kelly McBride, Senior Faculty for Ethics

I disagree with my bosses on the egregiousness of Jim Romenesko’s aggregation practices. Jim’s habit of paraphrasing but not really paraphrasing his source material evolved over time, as did his contract with his readers. Jim knew he was using the writing of others. His audience knew it. And his sources knew it, too. As a frequent reader, I knew it. And I assumed that the editors here at Poynter Online knew as much as they wanted to know about it, but I’m told they did not.

This doesn’t mean it was OK. But Poynter bears as much, if not more, responsibility for allowing Jim’s practice to evolve over time as Jim does. After all, Jim was a blogger we brought aboard because he had a big audience. We didn’t have any standards on aggregation. Over the years, as we’ve developed our thinking and teaching about online attribution, it was clear that we were articulating a different practice than Jim was employing. That created an understandable disconnect. Poynter is a brand. And Romenesko is a brand. And their values didn’t always match up.

But such is the nature of evolving standards on the Internet. Because we at Poynter often discussed this difference in our values, I assumed this was an unspoken agreement, and that after Jim and Poynter parted ways later this year, we would naturally smooth over that gap in practice as Poynter Online continues to grow.

I was comfortable with this ambiguous arrangement because it was clear to me that Jim’s audience understood the contract, as did his sources. Jim wasn’t being intellectually dishonest and he certainly wasn’t plagiarizing. Instead, he was being inconsistent in his use of tools that distinguish his own words from the work of others.

There is a lot of work to do in establishing standards of intellectual honesty in this digital era. I look forward to being part of that process, but I don’t think those standards are crystal clear, even here at the Poynter Institute.

Al Tompkins, Senior Faculty for Broadcast

I want to get this off my chest first: I do not believe Jim Romenesko plagiarized. I think this whole matter is way too dramatic and hurtful.

But, listening to colleagues and reading comments from you readers, I have learned some things while watching this narrative unfold. At the core of this whole mess lies an important issue. The issue is clarity.

I want to offer a personal take on this and then focus on what it means to my core teaching, broadcasting and multimedia.

As some of you may recall I wrote a column called Al’s Morning Meeting for 9 and a half years on Poynter.org. The same editor who called out Romenesko, Julie Moos, confronted me a couple of years ago with a similar concern that she expressed about Romenesko. Even though, like Jim, I linked to the sources I was writing about, even though in my mind it was clear I was talking about what somebody else wrote, she insisted that I had to put phrases and sentences that I did not originate, in quotes. Not italics, not offsets, but quotes. Even if it was just a short phrase, even if I had clearly linked to the original source, put it in quotes.

It seemed unnecessary to me, but it was what Poynter Online wanted and I have tried very hard to hold to that. Julie said to me back then that she was trying to “protect me.” She envisioned a day when somebody might challenge the way I was doing things and see it as “lifting.” After hundreds and hundreds of columns nobody ever did, but that notion stuck with me. I see wisdom in clarity, even excessive clarity. There are worse crimes than being too clear. More than that, it creates a culture of responsibility when those little things matter.

Poynter is a school that makes a reputation on establishing and upholding standards. We call people out when they fall short on ethical issues, editorial decisions and even missteps in media leadership. That role makes us an easy and justifiable target if we were to fall short. I don’t know how many times Romenesko has written about accusations of plagiarism or questionable ethics, but it must be hundreds of times. It forces us to be exceedingly clear.

Broadcast lessons

I suspect many of my broadcast colleagues would look at this controversy and wonder what the fuss is about. It is not terribly unusual for some newsrooms to allow reporters and anchors to voice-over copy that was sent to them through a syndicated service. The viewer would have no way of knowing this was a feed and not the work of that reporter. It is an awful practice that should end.

I wonder how many broadcast newsrooms enforce standards about lifting phrases or sentences from other sources without attribution. I would encourage any reader to post those standards to the comments section of this column (with attribution, of course).

I said in a staff meeting Friday morning that this matter reminds us of the need for constant conversation and training in journalism. Even if a place like Poynter believes we have been clear about our standards, we have to keep talking about them, never assuming we have said enough. When is the last time your newsroom had an open and detailed conversation about attribution? It is time. It is past time.

Butch Ward, Managing Director

I still believe in quotation marks.

Yes, that tattoos me (another sign of hipness I’ve not yet adopted) as a member of the old tribe, but it seems important to me to clearly identify to the reader when the words I’m using are mine and when they are not.

Not that attribution always mattered to me. Fresh out of college in 1974, I joined the rewrite desk of the now-defunct (shocker) Baltimore Evening News American and on the very first morning was introduced to the daily rewrite of the Baltimore Morning Sun. It went like this: Shortly after our arrival at 6 a.m., each of us received a small stack of articles neatly clipped from the Sun. Our job was to turn them into briefs. We focused on the “facts,” those statements in the story that our reporters could have gotten themselves if they had pursued them. There was rarely anyone to confirm those facts – after all, it was 6 a.m.

We attributed nothing to the Sun.

If only we had aggregated instead of lifted. The aggregation that Jim Romenesko pioneered achieved far more than any of our clumsy rewrites – and it had integrity.

During the years I worked at the News American, management changed and threw the morning rewrite of the Sun out of the window along with some of the bosses who conducted it. Management, and then all of us, started talking about ethics. They insisted we only took credit for the work we had actually done. If we needed to publish someone else’s reporting or writing, we gave them credit.

With quotation marks.

The world was a lot simpler then. Baltimore had three newspapers, four TV stations and a handful of radio stations that did news. We easily could have come up with some new conventions to help the reader distinguish between original and repurposed work, but why bother? Quotation marks worked just fine.

And they still do, even in this far more complicated digital world. And since everyone knows what they mean, why do we feel compelled to replace them?

To be sure, standards and values in the digital journalism world are morphing almost as fast as a Twitter search of #PennState. That seems to me to be a really important reason for journalists – and anyone else serious about credibility, for that matter – to hold on for dear life to conventions that protect the values that really matter.

Values like accuracy. And clarity.

I’ve read a lot of “everybody knew what he meant” the past two days. Sorry, I haven’t done the interviews to support that claim, and I rarely trust such generalities. Here’s one I do trust: When we use quotation marks along with our attribution, everybody knows what we mean.

Rick Edmonds, Media Business Analyst

Call me old school. I was taught that when you quote someone, or a text, verbatim for more than a phrase or two, that should be indicated with quotation marks. Anything else is bad practice and corner-cutting. I get from the comments that many people think the rules for a summary in an aggregation site are different; I don’t get why. Since Poynter often points out lapses of others, we needed to provide the same self-critique for one of our own.

That said, I think the length, play and some of the language in Julie’s initial piece was excessive. Better to say what the error was — illustrate with the strong example from Chicago – and say that Jim and other contributors have been reminded not to do that. There was, in a more drawn-out discussion of the issues at play, the effect (if not the intent) of taking Jim to the woodshed, as one of Julie’s critics put it, and in a very public and humiliating way.

Much of the subsequent criticism took no account of the distinctions Julie’s post carefully drew, was excessively personal and nasty and struck me as especially gutless from those who attacked anonymously.

Jim has been a valued and scrupulously professional colleague. He had already said that a decade of aggregating was enough for him and that his next venture in journalism about journalism will involve original reporting. So the beloved Romenesko columns of a more newspaper-centric era were in the process of going away anyhow. I consider Jim a pioneer who helped shape the style of the countless aggregation blogs that have followed while astutely serving the hunger for the very latest for news junkies. Like others, I am sorry his great run at Poynter ended on a sour note.

Jill Geisler, Senior Faculty, Leadership and Management

I think this is a case of assumptions gone astray.

  • I think Jim Romenesko assumed that prominent linking and referencing was sufficient for the commingling of his own words with those of others in his sentences or paragraphs. I think he did this with no intent to deceive, but it was a journalistically flawed construct nonetheless.
  • I think Poynter assumed, 12 years ago, that having a unique editing standard for one staffer was of limited risk and perhaps even a smart entry into new journalism forms.
  • I think Julie Moos assumed when contacted by CJR about multiple stories that didn’t follow the attribution and quotation policies Poynter teaches that avoiding hypocrisy was a paramount value, and therefore she should write in some detail about Poynter’s own self-critique.

The result was the kind of firestorm that often happens when the focal point of a story is a well-known individual. Personalities and issues get commingled. Our blind spots — loyalties, habits, preferences — can rule the day. This shouldn’t be just about Jim — it’s about all of us at Poynter and all of us in journalism.

I wish Jim hadn’t assumed that resignation was his best option. I wish he would have worked with his editors at Poynter to simply improve what needed improvement, so that the posts he wrote were either original summaries — or clearly quoted previews.

As she wrestled with this, Julie did what managers are supposed to do — she sought out input from others. I was among them. We talked about making sure Jim’s voice was in the story so readers could hear how he developed this format and the intent behind it. I wish he had chosen to do that — to be part of the story and share this thoughts.

If he had, perhaps some critics wouldn’t be assuming that because they only heard from the editor in the announcement, that this was an attempt to kneecap a talented man who has served Poynter well for many years. As someone who’s been part of Poynter for about the same time, I feel compelled to testify that Poynter’s editors, especially Julie Moos, have been the kind of editors journalists hope to work with. I add that because in the aftermath of Jim’s resignation, a lot of personal invective has been hurled her way from people who don’t know her — once again, the unfortunate result of flawed assumptions.

Bill Mitchell, Leader of Entrepreneurial and International Programs

In his pioneering work in news aggregation, Jim Romenesko created a story form built on three sturdy legs:

  • He served an audience whose need for news about news grew with every disruptive quake of the journalistic landscape.
  • His posts reflected the sort of original thinking, framing and phrasing that elevated them well beyond summaries.
  • He developed a shorthand of links and devices (remember that left rail?) that his closest readers found reliable, engaging and habit-forming.

So solid was Jim’s foundation, in fact, that his name became a media verb, a phenomenon that enabled him to Romenesko not only the place where he worked but the industry he served.

As Jim’s boss for the first 10 of his dozen years at Poynter, I struggled at times to reconcile the realities of his new story form with some traditional journalistic standards.

Eventually, we came to grips with the idea that new forms of publishing require some new understandings with our readers. There was no way, for example, that Jim could satisfy the requirement of verification before publication in a blog linking to dozens of stories — with hundreds of assertions — in any given week. Some media execs continued to howl when a Romenesko link would elevate an alt-weekly critique of their newsroom in ways they considered unfair and undocumented. But over time, even some of Jim’s harshest critics came to appreciate the service he provided, limitations and all.

In a FAQ originally published in January 2003, we made it clear that neither Jim nor anyone else at Poynter was verifying the information in the stories he was linking to. We also pointed out that he posted directly to the site with editors reading behind him after publication.

In retrospect, at least a couple of things are clear about the explicit contract we tried to make with readers: We weren’t detailed enough (there was no discussion about various issues of aggregated content, for example), and we failed to review and reassess our practices on a sufficiently regular basis. As the guy in charge for most of Jim’s run at Poynter, I take responsibility for that.

The controversy that prompted Jim’s resignation from Poynter this week is a bit different from the issue of verification. In dispute is Jim’s failure to signal clearly enough to readers when words in his post were taken verbatim (or nearly so) from the stories he was linking to. No one has suggested Jim was attempting any deception (his posts are all about links to others’ work) and most of the readers who have commented on the controversy say they didn’t need quotation marks to know that the words weren’t really Jim’s.

The challenge for journalists is not simply to satisfy hardcore readers, though, but to publish in a form that is both transparent and accessible to whatever eyes discover their words. And unlike the challenge of verification before publication, the inclusion of quotation marks around verbatim material is quite doable within the constraints of aggregation.

In a piece published at CJR, Justin Peters raises a larger concern about relying on verbatim material — with or without appropriate punctuation — to the exclusion of originally crafted analysis of the story to be linked. He pushes for just the sort of original thinking, framing and phrasing, in other words, that made Romenesko’s name in the first place.

As the disruption of the media world continues unabated, the need for smart aggregation of news about news grows ever more intense. But wherever it goes, the next chapter in the life of this particular story form will unfold without its godfather.

As Jim told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple Thursday night, he envisions no aggregation on the site he plans to launch next year, JimRomenesko.com, and will focus instead on reporting and essays.

Just the sort of news categories, it seems to me, that could use some new story forms of their own.

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  • Anonymous

    Pink is wrong. Copy editors do fact check. Not at the level of the New Yorker, but there is checking of suspicious-looking facts, there is spot checking of random facts, and there is checking of quoted sources. At least there was until I was laid off. I can’t vouch for what’s happened since then.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    I’m not talking about obscure details, though. I’m talking about things like the year of the Battle of the Bulge. And I know we used to check crime details like the one you mentioned — we screened out a couple of nasties that way.

    Again, I disagree that the people who run around screaming “New Media! Post as fast as possible and keep doing it!!!!!” have had no effect on those safeguards getting whacked. They have had a tremendously bad effect. Just talk to some of the people who worked at a JRC paper 10-15 years ago and ask them to compare the way things were with the way things are now. There are articles out there about the changes — they are not complimentary.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    Bill, come on. Really? Personal attacks are wrong. But what I said was not a personal attack. The journos, profs and editors here defending Jim as a martyr of journalism and aggregation is puzzling because it’s biased and muddled. And some of the comments here–downright nasty viscous stuff aimed at Moos and Poynter really made the industry appear cruel, angry and classless.

    This isn’t about defending Jim. This is about following the rules. Jim was not taken to the woodshed. And many of you blew this up into something it was not, ie Mr. Buttry saying that Poynter called Jim a plagiarist–thats just flat out false and misleading. Nowhere in any column did Poytner do that. In fact, Moos did the opposite. He violated Poytner’s aggregation rules and no one realized it because no one ever edited his work because they didn’t think they needed to because hardly any of it was original content.

    HOWEVER, JIM did offer his own words in his columns, and now knowing his poor practice of when to use quotes, I have no idea how to discern when Jim was speaking or when it was words lifted from somewhere else. Unless it is in quotes or highlighted within a link, how the heck am I supposed to tell?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    Newspapers fact check? Ummm, are you sure? Other than the large national newspapers, copy editors don’t “fact check”

    Unless the editor or copy editor has institutional knowledge of the subject of the story and catches something that is not right, small and middle sized newspapers aren’t fact checking, as in checking to see if someone did die in 1847 or checking to see if so and so was charged with a crime in 1987. Newspapers don’t fact check beyond what institutional knowledge the person who has the final look at the paper actually has.

    And this phenomenon has nothing to do with Howard Own, Steve Buttry or Paton.

  • Bill Reader

    “Stop with the nasty attacks and let’s debate the issue here.” — From “Pink,” posted several days ago.

  • Bill Reader

    “I don’t care what anyone from Poynter says, Romenesko met my definition of plagiarism … .” The rhetoric of fundamentalism always begins with “I don’t care what anyone else thinks” and concludes with “my definition is the only acceptable definition.” 

    Journalism cannot serve its role as a foundation of democracy if it becomes a monolith of dogma and commandments that are inflexible. We have to care about what other stakeholders say. We each have to be skeptical of our individual preconceptions and biases. Moral certitude is the foundation of fundamentalism, and the world has suffered quite enough from fundamentalism, in my opinion. We don’t need it in journalism.

  • Bill Reader

    Bruce — To answer your question, I am very clear in my classes about the problem of plagiarism. Here is the language I use in my News Editing syllabus (and the syllabi for all of my other courses): 

    “Plagiarism and cheating of any kind — major or minor, intentional or accidental — will be grounds for failure of the entire course.
    Likewise, recycling work done by roommates or fraternity/sorority
    “siblings,” or stealing or borrowing work from other students, will
    have the same result. Cheaters fail this course. Period.”But the dictionary definition of plagiarism I use is this: “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.”  The Romenesko situation is very much about intent, perhaps solely about intent, and it seems that the majority of folks weighing in on this issue simply don’t buy the argument that Jim was ever passing off the work of others as his own — if anything, he was directing readers of his column to the original works of others. A plagiarist doesn’t want people to find the original sources of his or her material; Jim gave us the hyperlinks. I think the radical fundamentalism that claims the omission of quotation marks is the same as plagiarism has no place in professional journalism. When dealing with situations of possible plagiarism, we have to focus on the “passing them off as one’s own” aspect more than anything. My syllabus uses the language of “will be grounds for” to denote that even a minor lapse can have serious consequences, but the “failure” will not be a knee-jerk reaction. If I determine that the problem was more likely a case of cheating than of a failure to use quotation marks properly, then I call down the Valkyries of righteous indignation, sure. But if the piece is properly sourced and attributed, and the wording of the excerpt is nothing so exceptional that it could not possibly be a paraphrase, I use the situation as a teachable moment and move on. But what you propose is a “zero-tolerance” policy for even the smallest infraction and oversight, and we all know how destructive and unreasonable “zero-tolerance” approaches can be. Such a police-state mentality doesn’t mix well with the democratic art of journalism, any more than secrecy and cover-ups of newsroom scandals mix with a profession that demands transparency and accountability of others.Finally, please keep in mind that I am working with STUDENTS, not seasoned professionals. One of the persistent problems in journalism education is that pros come into the classroom and expect sophomores and juniors to produce work of journeymen who have several years of full-time experience — that’s like asking a high-school pitcher to strike-out a Yankee slugger, and that is simply unreasonable.I am a teacher, not a drill sergeant or prison warden. My job is to teach, not to rule over or govern students. Part of that job is to give journalism students the opportunity to make mistakes so they can learn from them, and to encourage students to try new things and even take risks without fear. I want them to view accountability and responsibility as moral attributes that inspire bravery and tenacity and integrity, not just veneers that they must adopt to stay out of trouble.Your approach would go too far — it would replace genuine integrity with fear. And when journalists start doing things out of fear rather than out of a genuine sense of responsibility, we get … well, we get timid, safe, uninspired journalism. You actually are, whether you realize it or not, asking me to beat the youth out of our young. I reject the logic of your argument on those grounds, although I appreciate the passion with which you state your position. 

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    I took a look at the link in that story and it’s correct now. Let us know if you have further problems.

    Steve Myers
    Poynter.org

  • Anonymous

    How do you know whether what you call “careless punctuation” is plagiarism or not? At the end of the day, I can’t see how you or anyone else can know for sure. All you know for sure is what is on the printed page. “Inconsistent with his use of quotation marks when excerpting works that were the focus of his summaries?” That sounds like lot of words that can be summarized in one: plagiarism. 

    I’m not attacking your integrity. I’m questioning your logic, and you are obviously not alone in your thinking. Well and good. But this is exactly the slippery slope that invites excuses and leads to more plagiarism. Have you given any thought to starting each semester with a short speech on plagiarism, saying that there are no excuses, that so much as one lifted sentence will–not may, will–result in an F for the course and a report to the proper academic authorities, which could result in expulsion? Tell them to err on the side of caution, review their work before turning it in if they have any doubts and consult with you or a teaching assistant if they have any doubts before turning in an assignment. Tell them that around here, there is no such thing as inadvertent plagiarism. Then ask if there are any questions. In short, clear the air before it happens, making sure that everyone knows the rules. And then enforce the rules, equally for everyone. Which means no judgment calls between what is and what is not inadvertent, what is and what is not “careless punctuation.” I suspect that if you and others did that, including on the professional level, we’d see a lot less plagiarism, and we may well not have seen this dust-up between Poynter and Romenesko.

    We can disagree on this, but I don’t see this as a “style issue” or “beating the youth out of our young.” I see this as holding folks accountable, and by the time you enter college, you are, or should be, old enough to know the difference between right and wrong and suffer the consequences when you cross the line.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see a down side to this approach, and you can call me curmudgeon or holier than thou if you want.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, I correct my statement that Poynter removed the original Moos article. That was caused by a faulty link in Moos’ followup piece about Romenesko’s resignation. But the rest of what I said stands. Poynter needs to fix that link and make it easier to access the original piece.

  • Anonymous

    I find it disturbing that Poynter apparently has removed the original, wretched Julie Moos article laying out her criticisms of Jim Romenesko’s work. I’m no online ethics expert, but it seems to me that’s not an honest and transparent way to address Poynter’s egregious errors in handling this situation. Poynter should leave Moos’ original article up and publish a followup, hopefully explaining and apologizing for its errors and announcing appropriate personnel actions. In its followup article, Poynter also needs to be honest about why the recent changes were made in the medianews site in terms of the longer items that led to this overaggregation or plagiarism or fair-use problem, whatever you want to call it, and who was the responsible for those changes. I still don’t buy Moos’ comment in the Fry CJR piece that “no conscious decision” was made to lengthen the items, and Romenesko himself commented Friday that there was a conscious decision to do longer items while he was away on vacation this summer. So let’s see Poynter publicly address this and put its house in order, not delete the problematic material a la Nixon and his tapes. The original Moos piece could and should be used as a teaching tool, as with Coca Cola’s formula change and the Netflix Quixster bobble, in how not to mess with success.

  • Bill Reader

    Don’t worry, all — I deduct points aplenty and read the riot act to students who forget to use quotation marks where necessary. I just don’t pillory them in public or flunk them from the course or refer them to judiciaries for discipline. And plagiarism — actual-to-goodness plagiarism, in which the student is trying to pass off the work of another as her or his own — is an automatic F in all of my courses.

    I just live in the world of reality, not in the world of ideals, and don’t feel that we gain anything by beating the youth out of our young or elevating a debatable style issue to the level of a high crime.As for “the sin of plagiarism.” there are venal sins that are easy to forgive with minimal penance, and there are mortal sins that bring eternal damnation. In my opinion, when the issue involves careless punctuation in an otherwise well-attributed piece, I tend to advise students and others that “this could be seen as plagiarism, so fix it” rather than “this is clearly plagiarism, you cheater!”Plagiarism is a blatant attempt to steal the work of others. To elevate inconsistent use of quotation marks in an aggregated blog to “plagiarism” is exactly the kind of “holier than though” hypocrisy that is undercutting this business more than anything else. I think the over-reactions by Bruce, Pink and Robert above makes my point — it includes a rather nasty over-generalization from Robert Knilands, a politely dismissive view of the “other side” of this argument from Pink, and a wildly irresponsible distortion of my views by Bruce Rushton (if that’s “brucerushton”‘s name). To suggest that “my logic” excuses a serial plagiarist/fabricator such as Jayson Blair is a grievous error and a gross distortion of my point. Blair stole from others but tried to make it look like his own work. Romenesko just was inconsistent with his use of quotation marks when excerpting works that were the focus of his summaries. Was it “wrong”? Sure, but not morally wrong, just technically/procedurally wrong. It was a “loss of down” foul that got exaggerated into a “forfeit the season” kerfuffle. Part of being ethical in this business is to be fair, balanced, and reasonable. All three were missing in Poynter’s handling of the situation, in my opinion, and all three are kind of absent in some of the attacks on my integrity above.

    Bill R.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    Poor, poor, Poynter – can’t even bother to read their own series about best practices by bosses.

    When you get the query from CJR:

    1) Look at the posts in question and decide if indeed there is a potential for confusion in the attribution – keeping in mind this is the way JR has been doing it since before you hired him.

    2) If you see a problem (I’ll grant that it was possible for some to misinterpret some posts), call JR and talk about it. Get his feel for it – and if he doesn’t suggest it, suggest that he be more diligent in clarifying attributions from here on out. Also make clear that the OTHER contributors to R+ will do the same – since they’ve also been negligent.

    3) Do the interview with CJR. Clearly state that although you’ve never received a complaint or claim that JR was taking credit for someone else’s work, you can see the possibility for confusion by someone not familar with the form – and all involved have agreed to make attribution even more clear in the future.

    (This falls under the “we see a possible problem and here’s how we already fixed it” school of public relations.)

    4) Sit back and wait for the CJR piece – and see if it drives new traffic to Poynter.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    I stopped reading four lines into that. Romenesko wasn’t paraphrasing. He was copying and pasting. The sooner people realize that, the better.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    I stopped reading four lines into that. Romenesko wasn’t paraphrasing. He was copying and pasting. The sooner people realize that, the better.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Pink and Bruce, thanks for your replies. Perhaps I wasn’t clear, or you may have misunderstood me. Like you, I believe that quotes should be used whenever possible, and I strive to do that in my own work as well. However, there are cases where a combination of quotes with some paraphrasing make sense in new media forms. Consider, for example, the work of The Week Magazine, when they summarize how different news outlets covered the same events; they quote these outlets for key statements, but they also paraphrase them in the sentences preceding or following these quotes. I have no problem with that as a reader — I understand that they cannot quote every single word that is shared between their commentary and what the original writer said, you would end up with quotes everywhere, which would diminish the user experience. Similarly, when casually covering an event via Twitter, paraphrases are more practical than straight quotes, and are typically accepted as such by the readers, even though this would be frowned upon in a long-form report. Different forms should have different rules, IMHO, much as op-eds differ from breaking news, analysis or fact-checks. The key is that the authors make it clear which method they are using — I often will mention that I am paraphrasing when covering a conference proceeding on Twitter, to make it clear that some of the words are borrowed and mixed with mine.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone who has followed Jim Romanesko’s column for years–as have I and most of my colleagues–always knew exactly what he was doing and had no doubt as to its veracity. I understand Poynter’s concession to CJR, but it is merely a squabble over a quibble. I respect the people at Poynter, but cringe at this muddle-headed decision.
    At a time that journalism is under attack, what Poynter did is profoundly disappointing, but not surprising.  It simply shines a bright light on the fact that so-called journalism think tanks like Poynter and the Columbia Journalism Review swiftly are  becoming irrelevant, as they remain too  deeply in their ivory towers and too  far removed from the realities of daily journalistic life.  In fact, many of the key players in such places have had only passing, or no, actual experience in working for major news organizations or they did it so long ago they’ve forgotten what it was like, with some notable exceptions.
    Nonetheless, Jim Romanesko put Poynter on the map.  He will continue to succeed but Poynter should be prepared to see its audience decline as, for many of us, he was the only reason we ever went to the site in the first place.
      

  • Anonymous

    Anyone who followed Jim Romanesko’s column for years–as I and nearly all of my colleagues have–always knew and understood what he was doing and never doubted a word.  In an age when journalism is under attack on all sides, it is profoundly disappointing, but not surprising, that Poynter did what it did.  It only shed a brighter light on the fact that many so-called journalism think tanks, such as Poynter and Columbia Journalism Review, are deep in ivory towers and far out of touch with the realities of journalism today.  Indeed, many of the key players in such places have only passing, if any, experience with working in daily journalism for a major new organization. Jim Romanesko will continue to succeed and, after having putting Poynter on the map, easily put it behind him. It is, at the end of the day, Poynter’s loss.  Romanesko was the only reason many people came to the site and that reason has just disappeared.  

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    I often have wondered how many people get out of school with a journalism degree and then have no idea what they are doing. This post sheds some light on the issue.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    That is the more obvious issue here — the reaction itself. Very puzzling, although not surprising.

    The other lasting issue is there seems to be a lot of aggregation, not just at Poynter, that has gone unreviewed for some time. CJR might be on to something with this topic.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    We’re in agreement on some things here. But not this. Given the negative, sweeping changes virtually across the board that have eliminated some important functions at newspapers, I tend to lump the people like Steve Buttry, Howard Owens, and some of the other new trenders into the category of “bad for the business.” Mr. Paton at JRC answered some questions for me at my site a while back, but I was generally skeptical that the company was going to change for the better.

    There was never anything wrong with having people who would fact-check articles and at least attempt to ensure that stupid stuff wouldn’t hit print or the Internet. The higher-ups who decided to cut in those areas are just wrong.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    Jim was not mistreated. You and others just overreacted to what was said and put words in MOOS mouth, such as saying she called Jim a plagiarist when she didn’t.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    WHAT!!!! Quotes are not practical in new media forms? You have to be kidding me. This wasn’t a Twitter post! This was a column.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    Then don’t. Who cares whether you want to come here anymore? I know I don’t.

  • Anonymous

    First, let’s not call folks names. Secondly, I am making an assumption here, which is, before this brouhaha erupted in public, Romenesko’s employer went to him and said “Hey, we need you to do this and this.” For whatever reason, it appears that he resisted and instead offered his resignation. Isn’t that kind of putting the ball in the employer’s court? Everyone seems to be blaming Poynter here, but what if Romenesko had said “Gee, you have a point, and even if you don’t, changing the way I roll in the way you want isn’t heavy lifting, fine, I’ll do it.” That does not seem to be what happened. If it had, this would’ve been a blip. Having an editor is not, in my view, an unreasonable working condition. Indeed, it would probably be a good thing if more bloggers did have editors. Nor is it a bad thing to be explicit when you use the words of others–you have a right to your opinion, but I disagree that Romenesko was “perfectly transparent.” His salary is relevant precisely because he had a salary: He was an employee, and the amount that he was paid countervails your assertion that he was not treated well. I would hope that Jesus would have more important things to worry about than Poynter, but, that said, Jesus said “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” which is to say, when someone with authority over you tells you to do something that doesn’t involve a crime or moral turpitude, you should do it.

    Finally, the world isn’t coming to an end here. At the risk of being called petty and jealous, Poynter was, it seems to me, paying for the brand name. While Romenesko was a pioneer and realized before most anyone else that journalists, a notoriously tidbit-hungry and oft self-righteous lot, would eat up a blog that contained the kind of information that his did. He deserves tons of credit and compensation for that. But, that doesn’t mean that someone else can’t do it and do it well. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    settle down pipsqueak

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    You have to be kidding me. Show me where Poynter called Jim a plagiarist. Show me. And I would really love for Jim to try and sue over this because once a judge gets his hands on this and looks at the definition of plagiarism and compares it to what Jim did, without all of the bias favortism that is shed here, case closed–he loses. Unbelievable.

    I guess the definition of plagiarism needs to be changed to say that it’s not plagiarism if you copy someone else’s text as your own on an aggregation site . wow

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    Bill, please tell your students to use quotes around text that is not their own. Please. I fear that based on what you say here, you could be sending out a bunch of mistakes into the industry. It doesn’t matter if you’re an aggregator and you have a link within the column. Anytime you puts words on paper or online and mix it with links, quoted material and your own words, you better be sure to clearly distinguish what you are writing and what you are taking. Jim did not do this. Please don’t tell your students that what Jim did is not bad, whether he did it intentionally or not. It was bad judgment and although he’s a great guy and has provided a great service and he didn’t do any of this to deceive, it doesn’t make it right.

    Is this the serious kind of plagiarism that destroys the industry? No, it wasn’t.

    Is it plagiarism? yeah, it was.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    Unnecessary attack on a good person, Robert. There is no reason to attack Steve. He’s is an asset to the industry and he has ZERO to do with this column or this controversy.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    I agree. But it’s not plagiarism to anyone who was linked on Romenesko because of traffic and benefits received from getting linked on his column. It’s truly silly and really sad to see so many in the industry acting this way. Grow up

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    Well, Steve, sorry to break it to you, but no one at Poynter called Jim a plagiarist and you are being dishonest by trying to say someone did. Just because the word plagiarism was includes in Moos column, that isn’t a valid reason to say she called him a plagiarist. You are being incredibly misleading. Please show me from any column on this site that says “Jim Romenesko plagiarized” or “Jim Romenesko is plagiarizer.”
    You won’t because no one did. So I really wish you would stop misleading people.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    I agree. Stop with the nasty attacks and let’s debate the issue here: Don’t take someone text and try to pass them off as your own. That’s what quotation marks are for. If you don’t use quotation marks, then I am only to believe you wrote it-and I don’t care that there is a link at the top, middle and bottom of the column. You cut and paste words, you put them in quotes. Why is this something that many of you believe is OK to do just because it is an aggregation blog? I bet some of these very people have sent off nasty missives to others in the industry for doing very similar stuff. I just bet.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    The amount of outcry for a guy who made a living off of copying and pasting other people’s work and linking to other people’s work is mindblowing. All he did was visit 100 sites a day and collect links. Do people really need to go crazy over this? I’m glad he’s decided to move on to something new, original and real, instead of making tons of money off of other people’s work. Good for him for coming up with the idea, but this ain’t journalism and it’s not something that takes a special person to do. Anyone can aggregate.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    The amount of outcry for a guy who made a living off of copying and pasting other people’s work and linking to other people’s work is mindblowing. All he did was visit 100 sites a day and collect links. Do people really need to go crazy over this? I’m glad he’s decided to move on to something new, original and real, instead of making tons of money off of other people’s work. Good for him for coming up with the idea, but this ain’t journalism and it’s not something that takes a special person to do. Anyone can aggregate.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    Again, I’m still baffled to all of the angry posters. It truly makes the industry look like more of a joke that Poynter. Get a grip, people. I think many of you, not Poynter, blew this out of control. I appreciate that Moos and Poynter disclosed this and I never once saw it as Jim being taken to the woodshed. But what was more newsworthy to me was the reaction from some in the industry–what a bunch of cruel, angry, classless whiners.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

    Again, I’m still baffled to all of the angry posters. It truly makes the industry look like more of a joke that Poynter. Get a grip, people. I think many of you, not Poynter, blew this out of control. I appreciate that Moos and Poynter disclosed this and I never once saw it as Jim being taken to the woodshed. But what was more newsworthy to me was the reaction from some in the industry–what a bunch of cruel, angry, classless whiners.

  • Jane Briggs-Bunting

    Thank you Poynter and CJR for a valuable and insightful lesson for journalists and journalism students. For my students, this will be assigned reading for further discussion this week.

  • Anonymous

    Why are you so argumentative . . . and dense? Romenesko was perfectly transparent — his blog was all about attribution. And we now know his employer never “set standards,” as you say — the horse came after the buggy. Julie Moos ruled with a whim of iron. To pretend otherwise makes you sound petty and jealous. Citing his salary, as if that had anything to do with the issue? WWJD?

  • Anonymous

    “If it’s clear to most people.” Why not explicitly attribute so that it is clear to ALL people? After all, aren’t journalists supposed to be making things as clear as possible to as many people as possible?

  • Anonymous

    I’m old school, and I also believe that companies should treat their employees well. I also believe that paying a blogger $186,500 a year (Romenesko’s compensation in 2009) is treating an employee well. I’m old school, and I believe that employers have a right to set standards and require employees to meet them. Finally, I’m old school and I think that transparency is the best course of action when a blogger whose job it is to spread the word about what’s really going on in the world of journalism butts heads with an organization dedicated to journalism. Ask yourself: WWRD?

  • Anonymous

    My 2 cents on this heated debate: quotes are desirable, but not always practical in new media forms.

    For example, quotes can’t easily be included on Twitter or conversational social media. And in the new form Romanesko was pioneering, it would create unsightly visual clutter to put quotes everywhere. 

    So I advise flexibility — use quotes when you can, but don’t make it a hard rule for this new form — and above all, be transparent about evolving standards and label experiments as such. 

    That said, I think some people went overboard in their attacks against Julie Moos, and should consider a public apology. Nobody deserves to be treated this way — particularly by fellow journalists, who should know better.

    There. Given that this is pretty much the “new form,” is it OK that I just cut-and-pasted your post without giving you credit? Is this what “flexibility” means? Or should I, perhaps, have noted that I was copying you? Maybe taking the time to hit the quote mark key would’ve been too much trouble, so I should be excused. Quotation marks are, after all, just visual clutter, right?

    That Twitter doesn’t allow quotation marks says a lot more about Twitter than it does about what is right and what is wrong. My lord: Are we supposed to drop time-honored standards because of Twitter and platforms frequented by folks who can barely spell and that may well be extinct in five years? Kewl. LOL. FWIW. ROFLMAO.

  • Anonymous

    Vitriol? Did someone say “vitriol?”

  • Anonymous

    I don’t care what anyone from Poynter says, Romenesko met my definition of plagiarism. And I can’t see how anyone can say that he was smeared with the plagiarism brush when Moos took pains and I don’t know how many words to explain just what the issue was and how it was handled. That’s not a smear, that’s taking an action that proved unpopular, and for someone to suggest a smear is, well, a smear.

  • Anonymous

    Bill,

    I’m not sure where to begin with your post.

    If I were a student of yours and turned in a paper that was plagiarized but was otherwise “true and accurate,” wouldn’t I be in a swimming pool of hot water? For anyone, let alone a journalism professor, to downplay in any respect the sin of plagiarism and suggest that there isn’t any harm to the public is deeply disturbing. Of course there is harm to the public. The more plagiarism occurs, the more that it is tolerated, the less the public trusts journalists–it’s a vicious cycle that is directly linked to credibility. By your logic, the Jayson Blairs of the world are no big deal. Of course they are a big deal. Yes, Blair fabricated things, but he was primarily a plagiarist. A slippery slope, folks who should know better downplaying the seriousness of plagiarism, which only encourages and leads to more plagiarism.

    As far as professional elitism, you are a journalism professor. There are lots of folks, including myself, who would argue that journalism, like education, isn’t the sort of profession that requires a degree in communications (or education) or journalism or whatever you want to call it–much better to major in history or English or philosophy, something that actually inculcates critical thinking skills. What I’m suggesting here is, by virtue of being a journalism professor, you are neck-deep in the professional elitism swamp. That your home page was Romenesko amplifies this. This may come as news to many posters here, but Romenesko was not the widely known blogger that many seem to think he was. He was virtually unknown outside the journalism profession, the Nikki Finke, if you will, for a much narrower audience. Romenesko didn’t serve the public, as you suggest. He filled a need, yes, but make no mistake. The need was not universal, and the baseball was certainly inside.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    I don’t think you know what a straw man is. Saying that someone is copying-and-pasting too much text is violating a guideline is hardly a straw man.

    Again, you and others are so determined to rant about the issue that you are missing nearly all of the points that have been offered.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    I think they did that, though, when they said Romenesko was going to be subjected to new guidelines. You and others are so busy ranting about Romenesko’s departure (which was going to happen anyway) that you have missed a great deal of the explanation that was offered.

    In summary, you are missing something — a great deal, in fact. But you are far from alone.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    How is that even an argument? The “everybody does it” phase is yet another of the levels that today’s journalists seem to plummet to when they are challenged.

  • Anonymous

    Folks, can I butt in here and point out that Romenesko himself made news yesterday (to my knowledge his first substantive public response to what Moos and Fry wrote) in reply to my post? He contradicted Julie Moos by saying there was a conscious decision to make the medianews pieces longer, apparently while he was out on vacation. If you all are news people, isn’t that worthy of note? After all, according to CJR’s Fry, the real problem arose when the medianews pieces became longer and started violating the fair-use rule. Moos denied in Fry’s piece that she made such a decision. How about offering some thoughts on what looks to me, unless I’m missing something, like a key issue for Poynter’s top management and for Poynter readers (and former readers).

  • Anonymous

    Carl, Poyner is reaping what it has sown.

  • Anonymous

    Roy, I have known and admired you since the days MMI (em em eye) was in the bank and all I can say, quoting Gomer Pyle, is “Shame, shame, shame.” To say you guys did not call Jim a plagiarist is at the leadt disingenuous. It may save you from punitive damages, but nit the fact your pool of potential clients has diminished a great deal. You “pulled a Spinkelink (your term Roy)” on yourselves and your academic creds are nonexistent at the moment. I know I would not send a staffer to Poynter with the current administration.

  • Anonymous

    Where were your high falootin’ standards the past dozen years?

    Your ethics ring all too hollow given your own and your colleagues’ failure to notice sooner. Plus, with all the linking Jim has done, to call his brand of blogging anything close to an ethical quandary is just incorrect.

    Further, in light of Poynter’s fiscal need to thin the herd at the St. Petersburg Times, might there be another reason behind the brouhaha?

  • Earnest Prole

    Does no one at Poynter understand the concept of a link? A link is far more powerful and trustworthy than quotation marks because readers may instantly verify the words on the screen. Virtually every consumer of online content knows this; those who would be fooled are either willfully obtuse or dumber than a sack of hammers. Poynter wanted to be considered an ethical authority for new media, but it doesn’t understand the most basic principles of a hyperlink. An amazing revelation, like the moment Toto pulled back the curtain on the Wizard.

  • Candace Heckman

    How is Jim’s brand of aggregating different from TV rip-n-read or AP’s typical copy-paste?

  • Anonymous

    “There was, in fact, a conscious decision to make the pieces longer…”

    That was also something Rom+ readers noticed. It really stunk the blog up. It was and is a stupid call.

    I was on my way out the door when they started doing this. Now, after learning they asked Jim to go longer and THEN they threw him under the bus — well, Poynter will be lucky to have any readers in a few weeks.

    Again, I call for the BOARD of Poynter to investigate the managerial incompetence of how this and Jim’s public humiliation were handled. I call for them to release the results but only AFTER they weigh the issue seriously.

    If CJR gets a copy of the board’s draft, so what? 

  • Anonymous

    Sad. I have long sent  a lot of younger journalists, people who cannot yet call themselves journalists, to Poynter.org for the discussions and workshops and lessons, but I won’t any longer. I was embarrassed about the way Ms. Moos handled this situation, angered by her words, and now I am embarrassed (and a bit disgusted) about the way the other “masthead” names have responded to the situation. What on earth happened down there in St. Pete that prevented a quick meeting – all hands on deck – to discuss and resolve the issue internally? If someone approved Ms. Moos’ missive explaining Mr. Romenesko’s departure, which seems to be the case, I am thinking that that person(s), in addition to Ms. Moos, should be shown the door. Seriously. Disregarding all of the vitriol on this site (and others) in response to this idiotic move, the fact that Ms. Moos, with the approval and participation of others at Poynter, pushed Mr. Romenesko out the door in such a classless, crass and juvenile manner is unforgivable. Your integrity is gone, and it will never reappear.

  • Anonymous

    My 2 cents on this heated debate: quotes are desirable, but not always practical in new media forms.

    For example, quotes can’t easily be included on Twitter or conversational social media. And in the new form Romanesko was pioneering, it would create unsightly visual clutter to put quotes everywhere.

    So I advise flexibility — use quotes when you can, but don’t make it a hard rule for this new form — and above all, be transparent about evolving standards and label experiments as such.

    That said, I think some people went overboard in their attacks against Julie Moos, and should consider a public apology. Nobody deserves to be treated this way — particularly by fellow journalists, who should know better.

  • Bill Reader

    I’m very troubled with how this situation was handled by Poynter, which I have respected deeply as an institution and which has served me and my students well for many years. I never once thought that anything I read on Romenesko was anything but copy-and-paste from the linked source, and assumed that the occasional omission of quotation marks in his blog were the moral equivalent of typing a hyphen instead of a dash or using “while” and “since” in place of “although” and “because.”

    The bigger issue here, though, is that “plagiarism” has become such an obsession with this industry that it overshadows a much more serious professional crime, that of professional elitism? Plagiarism is theft, and that is bad, but so long as the information is true and accurate, the public is not really harmed by the act; the harm is by one journalist against another. But fabrication is lying, it is deception, it “tears at the social fabric” (to put quotes around the cliche lest one accuse ME of plagiarizing the public domain …).

    For nearly 10 years, Romenesko has been my home page, at work and at home, and it has been my primary gateway to the rest of Poynter’s offerings. Yesterday, I removed the link from my preferences, and for the next few days I will be opening my Web browser to a blank page by default. It will take a very, very long time for me to trust Poynter online again for opting to throw one of its own under the bus for something that could have easily been resolved by an internal memo that read, simply “put quotes around every excerpt.” For example: “I couldn’t have put it better than Steve Buttry did below: ‘Poynter smeared Romenesko with the plagiarism brush.’”

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Jim, he should have known to paraphrase. Yes, Poynter should have been way more vigilant. But he should have known better, just as you should know better with some of the things you post.

  • http://rightnetwork.com Jack Reno

    This pretty much sums it all up: “EXCRUCIATINGLY DULL WEB SITE INEXPLICABLY WHACKS SOLE ASSET-”

    You people do know, I mean you must KNOW, how deeply boring and nonessential you are now, right? 

    What a sad bunch of wannabes.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    “Is it really a personal attack …” — apparently you haven’t read the assortment of them from the many gutless anons here. Another sign of today’s journalists at work.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    I guess he was better at copying-and-pasting than the other posters.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    He was accurate in copying-and-pasting, apparently. 

  • Anonymous

    (sorry, I obviously had a lot of problems trying to post to Disqus on the iPad.)

  • Anonymous

    Jim Romenesko has been the go-to person for news about our profession for more than a decade.   The reason for that is very simple: he was an extremely accurate and straightforward journalist.  He never made things up and he certainly did not plagiarize.   He covered the press the way a good police reporter covers crime–quickly, accurately and succinctly.   The only reputation that will suffer from the way he has departed is Poynter’s.  This is shameful way to treat the person who brought you more good attention than anyone else you have ever employed.

  • Valerie Wells

    Will Poynter continue to call the blog Romensko? I just got an email update about the latest blog posting. Certainly it is wrong, isn’t it, to keep his name?

  • http://tommangan.net/ Tom Mangan

    Maybe I’m giving Jim too much credit here, but it certainly looks like he gamely killed two birds with one stone: exposing the true nature of Poynter — earnestly clueless — while simultaneously extracting himself from their earnestly clueless environs. 

    You were doing an admittedly passable job of creating a post-Romenesko transition — his posts were better than everybody else’s because he’s that much better at it than everybody else — but I felt like you were gaining traction. Now you’ve all but guaranteed people will simply stop coming here.

    What kind of outfit lets its franchise player walk away over an issue that could’ve been solved with a one-sentence memo instructing said player to start using quote marks for direct attribution? Only an earnestly clueless one.
     

  • Anonymous

    I’m old school, and I believe companies should treat their employees well.

     

  • Anonymous

    You turned your back for 12 years, and then you overreacted.

  • Anonymous

    Is this where the “problem” originated? Someone changing the format Romenesko invented and then later realizing that Romenesko’s practices didn’t precisely fit the new format?
    And why didn’t the sanity and wisdom of Roy Peter Clark and Kelly McBride not prevail?

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

    Asking that writers use quotes to differentiate quoted material is important. We don’t always go to the quoted source to see for ourselves where the words originate. It is important that the writer being properly identified because the material could be further quoted, and the original attribution lost.

    Since Poynter considers itself a teaching medium, it is also proper to note where attribution has failed in the past, as well as provide assurances that the publication will be better about attribution in the future. As a writer, I can imagine how painful and embarrassing this type of public disclosure would be, but I’d rather get the pain over quickly, and have it handled by friendly forces, then to have it thrown into my face as an act of spite or vengeance at some future time.

  • Anonymous

    Is this where the “problem” originated? Someone changing the format Romenesko invented and then later realizing that Romenesko’s practices didn’t precisely fit the new format?
    And why didn’t the sanity and wisdom of Roy Peter Clark and Kelly McBride not prevail? Would have prevented the trashing of Jim and the public ridicule that Poynter now deserves.
    And get some thick skin. Is it really a personal attack to call out the author of this mess? I like Julie and feel a little sorry for her. I imagine the decision rested with Karen Dunlap, who says only that she had “the last read” but otherwise avoids responsibility. Karen says, in effect, “mistakes were made” but doesn’t seem to take any personal blame, instead letting Julie take the heat because her byline was on the story. Total failure of leadership, In my not-so-humble opinion.

  • Anonymous

    Is this where the “problem” originated? Someone changing the format Romenesko invented and then later realizing that Romenesko’s practices didn’t precisely fit the new format?
    And why didn’t the sanity and wisdom of Roy Peter Clark and Kelly McBride not prevail? Would have prevented the trashing of Jim and the public ridicule that Poynter now deserves.
    And get some thick skin. Is it really a personal attack to call out the author of this mess? I like Julie and feel a little sorry for her. I imagine the decision rested with Karen Dunlap, who says only that she had “the last read” but otherwise avoids responsibility. Karen says, in effect, “mistakes were made” but doesn’t seem to take any personal blame, instead letting Julie take the heat because her byline was on the story. Total failure of leadership, In my not-so-humble opinion.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

    Penn state was about covering up for a pedophile. Can you consider, for one moment, the absurdity of comparing that situation with this one?

  • Jim Hopkins

    It seems to me there was a very simple solution that would have avoided the great damage Poynter has now done to its credibility and reputation:

    You could have told Jim that, effective immediately, Poynter wanted him to start using quotation marks, or do more paraphrasing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BNO2CBBLLCLUJGK2RVJONX6G2E Zhuxiao

    Since the deflections of the seven plates mentioned above satisfy the differential
    equation of plates, we can simply superpose the
    corresponding quantities and make them satisfy all the boundary
    conditions and supporting conditions.

  • Anonymous

    So those at the top of Poynter have circled the wagons and said “Gosh some mistakes have been made but let’s just move on.” Maybe you should all move on to Penn State University’s athletic department where that sort of attitude is revered. This deeply unprofessional and shabby affair requires some substantive action showing Poynter as an organization understands the profoundly pathetic way it has behaved. Let the resignations to restore a shred of honor begin now.

    And: “And nobody’s telling us to keep quiet either.” is insulting to us, your [former] readers. If there was any doubt that you would censor in-house comment then none of us would have wasted time on Poynter’s postings in the first place. That you now feel the need to trumpet what should be a core value of Poynter shows how much trust you’ve lost.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    “To me, this is a problem between two different generations of journalisman the inability of editors in the ‘old school’ to adapt.”
    You’re just wrong. And you must have put so much thought into being wrong by just ignoring the entire point and claiming all standards are irrelevant.

    In fact, your philosophy sounds a lot more like cookie-cutter to me. 

  • Anonymous

    Please allow me to summarize

    EXCRUCIATINGLY DULL WEB SITE INEXPLICABLY WHACKS SOLE ASSET—-Universal news industry reaction is loud, milk-snorting *WTF!?* —-IVORY TOWER EDITOR DECIDES TO FOLLOW *RULE* OUT OF WINDOW—– Drags entire Poynter outfit along with her after
    stupefying decision is followed by stultifying 
    18-part explication of *quotation punctuation*   
    —- Brand despoiled, Web layoffs loom
    when astonishingly pointless caviling leads to
    inexplicable, insulting critique of beloved writer
    —— 
    MS. THISTLEBOTTOM REBORN! 
    —- 
    Inventor of egregious neologism *overaggregation* 
    overly aggravates everyone after aggrandizing act—–EPISODE PROMPTS SOUL-SEARCHING–NOT—Shouldn`t that be *NOT*?—-All right, all right, *NOT*—- Readers = *Wait, other peoplebeside Romenesko work there?What the hell do they do all day?*—-SOURCES: DOZENS PAID TO SPLIT HAIRS,*DO* LUNCH, SIT IN TANKS AND *THINK* …—-*Great Caesar`s ghost!*imaginary news figurePerry White declares

  • Anonymous

    Please allow me to summarize

    EXCRUCIATINGLY DULL WEB SITE INEXPLICABLY WHACKS SOLE ASSET—-Universal news industry reaction is loud, milk-snorting *WTF!?* —-IVORY TOWER EDITOR DECIDES TO FOLLOW *RULE* OUT OF WINDOW—– Drags entire Poynter outfit along with her after
    stupefying decision is followed by stultifying 
    18-part explication of *quotation punctuation*   
    —- Brand despoiled, Web layoffs loom
    when astonishingly pointless caviling leads to
    inexplicable, insulting critique of beloved writer
    —— 
    MS. THISTLEBOTTOM REBORN! 
    —- 
    Inventor of egregious neologism *overaggregation* 
    overly aggravates everyone after aggrandizing act—–EPISODE PROMPTS SOUL-SEARCHING–NOT—Shouldn`t that be *NOT*?—-All right, all right, *NOT*—- Readers = *Wait, other peoplebeside Romenesko work there?What the hell do they do all day?*—-SOURCES: DOZENS PAID TO SPLIT HAIRS,*DO* LUNCH, SIT IN TANKS AND *THINK* …—-*Great Caesar`s ghost!*imaginary news figurePerry White declares

  • Anonymous

    Please allow me to summarize
    EXCRUCIATINGLY DULL WEB SITE INEXPLICABLY WHACKS SOLE ASSET—-Universal news industry reaction is loud, milk-snorting *WTF!?*

  • Anonymous

    Please allow me to summarize
    EXCRUCIATINGLY DULL WEB SITE INEXPLICABLY WHACKS SOLE ASSET—-Universal news industry reaction is loud, milk-snorting *WTF!?*

  • Anonymous

    Please allow me to summarize

    EXCRUCIATINGLY DULL WEB SITE INEXPLICABLY WHACKS SOLE ASSET—-Universal news industry reaction is loud, milk-snorting *WTF!?* —-IVORY TOWER EDITOR DECIDES TO FOLLOW *RULE* OUT OF WINDOW—– Drags entire Poynter outfit along with her after
    stupefying decision is followed by stultifying 
    18-part explication of *quotation punctuation*   
    —- Brand despoiled, traffic plummets
    when astonishingly pointless caviling leads to
    inexplicable, insulting critique of beloved writer
    —— 
    MS. THISTLEBOTTOM REBORN! 
    —- 
    Inventor of egregious neologism *overaggregation* 
    overly aggravates everyone after aggrandizing act—–EPISODE PROMPTS SOUL-SEARCHING–NOT— Shouldn`t that be *NOT*?—-All right, all right, *NOT*—- Readers = *Wait, other peoplebeside Romenesko work there?What the hell do they do all day?*—-SOURCES: DOZENS PAID TO SPLIT HAIRS,*DO* LUNCH, SIT IN TANKS AND *THINK* …—-*Great Caesar`s ghost!*imaginary news figurePerry White declares—

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Might want to ease up there, Journo, until your name is with your posts.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wenalway Robert Knilands

    Tell you what, Steve — as soon as your company stops claiming to be about journalism, then you might have some credibility on these issues.

    Until then, you should stick to trying to undo the vast damage JRC has wrought. That will be a tough task — try to stay focused on it.

  • Anonymous

    We now have a potential Nixonesque situation with Julie Moos. According to Erika Fry’s CJR article this afternoon, Moos said there was “no conscious decision” to make the medianews pieces longer. But Romenesko says in a comment responding to my comment that there was indeed a conscious decision made while he was on vacation. Who to believe? I think we need a Watergate committee here to look for gaps on the tape. Seems to me this ups the stakes for the Moos administration.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Bruce Rushton.

  • Anonymous

    Bruce Rushton.

  • Anonymous

    Is it easier to attack a comment, than it is to focus on the original topic?

  • Anonymous

    Is it easier to attack a comment, than it is to focus on the original topic?

  • Anonymous

    Is there a political motive to try and divert from the original topic??

  • Anonymous

    Is there a political motive to try and divert from the original topic??

  • Anonymous

    You are not committed to a fair and accurate discussion of the issue at hand. You are engaging in biased debate.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, comrade.

  • http://twitter.com/romenesko Romenesko

    >> Moos claims there was “no conscious decision” [PLEASE NOTE THAT I PUT THAT IN QUOTES] to make pieces longer, 
    There was, in fact, a conscious decision to make the pieces longer. I went on vacation for a week during the summer and my former Poynter colleagues began posting articles long enough that they could justify tweeting back to Poynter, and not the source of the story. That is when this change in ROMENESKO occured.

  • http://twitter.com/taylorbright taylorbright

    After reading the comments from the Poynter brain trust – so many arguments about “quotation marks” – you can’t help but pity this group. The disconnect between these comments and what is going on in the journalism trenches today is startling.

  • Anonymous

    If anything was “questionable” it was Poynter’s practice of surrounding Romenesko’s blog with stuff from other Poynter blowhards (clearly meant to trick people into reading other Poynter detritus that no one would have seen otherwise).

  • Anonymous

    Be a GOOD JOURNALIST, and stay focused on the FACTS! (DO NOT TRY A PERSONAL ATTACK, OR YOU WILL LOSE IN A VERY SERIOUS WAY!).

    If you are a true journalist, then your assertion of facts will transcend personal attacks on any single commenter here.

    If you are a politician, lawyer, hack, crony, other something similar, then you will persist in a personal attack on this one individual — as you will think that will distract from the news at hand.

    If you persist in that unethical approach, WE will destroy you.

  • Anonymous

    To repeat a point I made earlier, I’m struck by the irony that this has turned into a valuable and nuanced discussion reminiscent of many I’ve enjoyed at Poynter. The issues are important and deserve attention. I feel it would have been more in the Poynter spirit to convene this discussion first, in a non-accusatory context, before calling out Mr. Romenesko.
     I respect everyone involved here, including Ms. Moos who shouldn’t be subjected to these personal attacks. I also respect the importance of tone and of good editing. Just to take one example, why was it necessary to use the word “transgressions” in the intro to this piece? I’m sure there are details I don’t know, but I see no evidence that anyone intended to do harm. The goal — a signature one at Poynter — is to thoughtfully work through issues like these in a collegial and positive way. I’m disappointed it hasn’t worked out that way.

  • Anonymous

    I am serious! I will go after anyone who chooses to try to divert attention from the facts!

  • Anonymous

    My name is in my profile. Click the image. If that is not enough, then use the Private Message feature and request Social Security Number and Home Address. That is already available via the DISQUS profile, of which I AM an admin. But, we can certainly give you FULL RIGHTS to conduct identity theft, if that is what you require to validate an opposing message. Otherwise, go back to the Soviet Union. :)

  • http://twitter.com/FunctionalPages Matt Garton

    Read all of this. My only comment is this:

    I saw several people refer to them, and their problem with said issue, was due to their “old school” ways.

    While upholding ethics and standards are indeed important, you have to
    ask if the inability to fully understand emerging  reporting trends and
    styles and ‘change with the times’ is a factor her.

    Evolve or die. It doesn’t mean you let standards erode, you ask if those standards are even relevant anymore.

    To me, this is a problem between two different generations of journalism
    an the inability of editors in the ‘old school’ to adapt.

    Raise you flag of standards and ethics, but if it’s clear to most people
    – I fail to see the problem. And cookie-cutter approaches are the
    crutches of an organization unable to see the big picture, or handle
    complex issues.

     

  • http://twitter.com/FunctionalPages Matt Garton

    Read all of this. My only comment is this:

    I saw several people refer to them, and their problem with said issue, was due to their “old school” ways.

    While upholding ethics and standards are indeed important, you have to
    ask if the inability to fully understand emerging  reporting trends and
    styles and ‘change with the times’ is a factor her.

    Evolve or die. It doesn’t mean you let standards erode, you ask if those standards are even relevant anymore.

    To me, this is a problem between two different generations of journalism
    an the inability of editors in the ‘old school’ to adapt.

    Raise you flag of standards and ethics, but if it’s clear to most people
    – I fail to see the problem. And cookie-cutter approaches are the
    crutches of an organization unable to see the big picture, or handle
    complex issues.

     

  • http://twitter.com/FunctionalPages Matt Garton

    I saw several people refer to themself, and their problem with said issue, was due to their “old school” ways.

    While upholding ethics and standards are indeed important, you have to ask if the inability to fully understand emerging  reporting trends and styles and ‘change with the times’ is a factor her.

    Evolve or die. It doesn’t mean you let standards erode, you ask if those standards are even relevant anymore.

    To me, this is a problem between two different generations of journalism an the inability of editors in the ‘old school’ to adapt.

    Raise you flag of standards and ethics, but if it’s clear to most people – I fail to see the problem. And cookie-cutter approaches are the crutches of an organization unable to see the big picture, or handle complex issues.

  • Anonymous

    What gives you the right to call people idiots and write with such vitriol without revealing your name?

  • Anonymous

    Appreciate these diverse thoughts very much. But I think that Edmonds nailed it. No one here, or anywhere for that matter, seems to be able to articulate an upside to failure to attribute or use quotation marks. However, there is a clear downside. By failing to explicitly attribute, the writer risks confusing or misleading readers. I just don’t see any way around that, and I can’t understand why a writer would run an unnecessary risk. I count myself a misled reader. Maybe I’m an idiot (and lord knows other posters have called me that and worse for defending Moos) but I read the guy for a half-dozen years and never realized that he was lifting.
    Writing is writing. I can’t understand why something that wouldn’t be OK in print is somehow OK simply because it is in cyberspace. In my book, it’s plagiarism. If I were emperor, here’s how it would work: If the words are not your own, then give credit, no if’s, and’s or but’s, and if this standard is not met, then you are, by definition, a plagiarist and on the unemployment line, period, case closed. That may sound harsh, but I think that journalism would be a better, and more respected, profession if this standard was followed. Sometimes, I think, a simpler world is a better one, and we would all be better served if we bagged nuance when it comes to plagiarism and cleaned up our collective act.

  • http://twitter.com/maryrduan maryrduan

    Anyone have the URL for Jim’s new blog? The one I hope he’s working on launching right now? Because I just don’t see the point in coming here again.

  • http://twitter.com/John_Royal John Royal

    So reading Fry’s post, it becomes clear that the problem she was getting at wasn’t Jim Romensko, but Julie Moos.  Somehow Moos turned this into a Romensko issue where Moos is little Ms Innocent trying to battle Mr. Evil.  No wonder Romensko was so eager to get away.  And absolutely none of the people quoted in this tome come close to addressing the issue raised by Fry, instead they just circle the wagons.

  • Anonymous

    YOU LOST ME AFTER 1035 words and the OVERSIZED, UPPERCASED TEXT in your reply article.

    What is wrong with you idiots?

    Communicate!!

  • Anonymous

    Erika Fry’s piece makes a strong case that the actual problem was the change in the Poynter medianews site that resulted in longer, “overaggregated” items — what we in the real world always called violations of the fair use rule. Julie Moos in in charge of the site. Jim Romenesko ran the site for a dozen years and did not engage in these fair use violations, as Fry states. While Moos claims there was “no conscious decision” [PLEASE NOTE THAT I PUT THAT IN QUOTES] to make pieces longer, that dog won’t hunt. She is in charge and it was under her watch that this problem arose. Therefore, and I say this in all seriousness, Julie Moos should resign. Other media figures have been asked to resign for less.
    –Harris Meyer

  • http://twitter.com/commiegirl1 Rebecca Schoenkopf

    Erika Fry’s story is up. http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/the_romenesko_saga.php?page=1

    Actually, her main beef was the over-aggregation, she says. The kind that Moos introduced. And yet Moos managed to slough off the responsibility and create a straw man in Romenesko’s citations. Badly done, Poynter. Badly done, Moos.

  • Anonymous

    Bottom line: If Jim was to be held to the same standards as everyone else, then why wasn’t he? And why not handle the matter internally rather than behave like Chicken Little, afraid the big, bad CJR — they’re from COLUMBIA, folks, how serious can they be? — might fling some dirt your way before you had the chance to don your Teflon suit. (Clever how I re-wrote Teflon Don, huh?) Are the people at Poynter that small, that horrified of a blemish on the institute’s reputation than they have to hit this issue with a pre-emptive strike? If you’re so old fashioned, why not hold your fire until you see the whites of the enemies’ eyes? Well, if this creates fallout, at least a few of you might find jobs at Penn State.

  • Anonymous

    I think the issue is management. A public whipping was not necessary.

  • Anonymous

    You guys take yourselves WAYYYYYYY! too seriously.  The only thing the reader cares about is the first impression conveyed by the first words in 10 seconds, and 10 words or less.

    All this diatribe and backtracking, in the form of a 600-page novel, will only resonate with the literary and political bull-walruses.

    Take a cue from some of the best PR agencies on handle all your goof-ups:

    1. Admit your mistakes in 30 seconds or less.

    2. Correct any mistakes and outline them in 30 seconds or less.

    3. Outline how you will prevent this from happening again.

    If you do not do these three things, no one will ever trust or believe you again.  Unless I see these three things, you have already lost me. Stupid idiots.

  • http://twitter.com/stevebuttry Steve Buttry

    I applaud you for this public discussion of what has clearly been a painful experience. As a longtime fan of Poynter and a friend of many present and past faculty and staff members, I did not join the criticism of Poynter lightly. I must take issue with this comment by Roy (with whom I largely agree on this issue): “No one at Poynter, including Julie Moos, claimed that Jim was a plagiarist.” Others similarly indicated that we had all misunderstood your effort to address the quotation issue.

    Julie’s blog post  (which has not been changed) says that Romenesko’s work was “inconsistent with our publishing practices and standards,” then specifically quoted the passage from the standards that cites plagiarism. Your readers know how to connect the dots, and Julie, in collaboration with her colleagues, placed those dots one after the other.

    I hope as this self-examination continues that you will come to realize and accept responsibility for the interpretation that Poynter smeared Romenesko with the plagiarism brush. The personal attacks on Julie were overreaction and I would not for a moment join that response. But the response that Poynter had accused Romenesko of plagiarism was not an overreaction to what you wrote. This was the inevitable and reasonable interpretation. You chose to include that word in your blog post in explaining how he failed to meet your standards.