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Romenesko resigns from Poynter over attribution complaint

One of the most high-profile US media bloggers, Jim Romenesko, has resigned his post at media standards non-profit Poynter after questions were raised about his use of verbatim quotes.

Erika Fry, an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, contacted Poynter’s Julie Moos to point out that Romenesko was consistently using passages of text verbatim from pieces he was writing about without using quotation marks.

It should be made clear that he was prominently linking to the source material, but Moos said that this posed the risk that the words “may appear to belong to Jim when they in fact belong to another”.

This style represents Jim’s deliberate choice to be transparent about the information’s origins while using the source’s own words to represent his or her work. If only for quotation marks, it would be exactly right. Without those quotation marks, it is incomplete and inconsistent with our publishing practices and standards on Poynter.org.

Romenesko has been writing for Poynter for 12 years and – according to Moos – the practice has been “extensive”, with spot checks going back to 2005 showing “multiple examples”.

Part of the problem was that Romenesko was allowed to publish his posts straight to the Poynter website without being subbed. He was the only staffer to be allowed to do so, and although other editors at Poynter read his work and the original pieces, Moos said, none noticed the duplication.

Romenesko’s initial offer of his resignation, after being contacted by Moos about the practice, was refused, but a subsequent offer has now clearly been accepted.

Moos noted in her post that some may find Romenesko’s practice “entirely acceptable and disagree that it is unclear or incomplete”, while some may find it “abhorrent and a journalistic sin”.

What do you think? Let us know on Twitter @journalismnews or in the comments below, or by email to joel at journalism.co.uk.

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