Journalists Are Uptight About Proper Attribution, When It Suits Them

Media blogger Jim Romensko resigned from his post at Poynter Institute last week, after the senior editor there accused him of improper attribution.

Julie Moos, Director of Poynter Online, explains:

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

But her reasoning isn’t going over too well. Romensko’s repurposing of content is something a lot of people appreciate, including the reporters and editors who benefit from additional traffic to their stories when Romensko points to them.

Choire Sicha, for one, is not impressed. “Romenesko’s entire practice was about giving credit, in ways that virtually no other blog has been.”

Why would Moos publicly flog Romensko in this way? Hard to say, but it may be as simple as this: Romensko planned to semi-retire from Poynter this winter and redirect his energies into his own site, He told the Washington Post that Poynter had expressed concern earlier this week that the new site would compete with for advertising.

“I wondered if they were trying to discredit me so advertisers wouldn’t touch me,” Romenesko wrote in his email to The Post. “I have no evidence, though, that that was their motivation.” Whatever the motivation, this is a tough spot for a school “dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders” to be in. Not so for Romensko. Very few people, if any, care about his non-use of quotation marks.

I might add that everything’s a mashup today, including material that appears to be original reporting. For instance, journalists do not credit press releases, but they do lift content from them word for word, all the time.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.