Romenesko Roars Back: After the Messy Breakup with Poynter, the Media News Aggregating Pioneer Has Created a Distinctive Web Site with Passion and Verve

Article excerpt

Jim Romenesko is scrolling through his e-mail and tweets, as any dedicated reporter would at 5:20 a.m. on a Saturday.

Stopping at the screenshot of an ESPN mobile headline sent to him by a reader, he thinks, "Holy shit, I have to post this." He makes coffee, checks a few other Web sites, posts at 6:30 a.m. and sends out a message to his nearly 47,000 Twitter followers.

"How long before ESPN apologizes for the CHINK IN THE ARMOR headline on its Jeremy Lin story?"

About three more tweets, as it turned out. Long before readers could fully process just how something this boneheaded could have been published, Romenesko linked to a sports blogger dogging the story and a statement of outrage from the Asian American Journalists Association.

At 7 a.m. on February 18, he called ESPN and got an operator. At 8:10 a.m., an ESPN public relations rep e-mailed a link to an announcement that the network had pulled the headline after it had been up for 35 minutes and apologized.

Google the phrase "chink in the armor" 24 hours later and there are 5,014 related articles. It is impossible to follow all of the threads of what is now a national discussion of race.

Kevin Ota, director of communications for Digital Media ESPN, issued a statement of apology for the headline and references made to it by an ESPN news anchor and someone not employed by the sports juggernaut on its radio affiliate in New York. The network fired the headline writer and suspended the anchor for 30 days.

It's just Romenesko on top of the biggest story of the day, one marching with an army of legs. One that prompted the kind of immediate action for which reporters sometimes wait a career.


He is jockeying it with the aggregation skills that made him famous and an abiding love for chasing a story. Not to mention lighting another big old Viking funeral pyre for the idea that you can't tell a story in 140, make that 76, characters on Twitter.

Holy shit, indeed.

"It's not work. It doesn't feel like work, it feels like a hobby," Romenesko tells me by phone in the afternoon as the ESPN mushroom cloud was rising high into the air. He is at a stop on one of his regular walking tours of the coffee shops in the orbit of his Evanston, Illinois, apartment. "You know the mentality you have when you're doing something you like, and you're doing it for yourself."

In November, after 12 years of "doing it" for the Poynter Institute, it's clear that is the product of his plan for independence. The site states the intention plainly: "A blog

about media and other things I'm interested in."

If he didn't invent news aggregation, Romenesko more than anyone else shaped it into something indispensable for media watchers. Such was the loyalty to him that when Poynter's Julie Moos publicly questioned the method of attribution he had been using for years, the media criticism establishment savaged what it considered a betrayal.

"Jim Romenesko will never be anything other than a hero of Web journalism to me," Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple wrote in a thoughtful examination of Poynter's position. "For what seems like the entire history of the form, Romenesko has been culling the work of media reporters and posting them to the site, complete with often-insightful summations.

"Romenesko elevated me, just the way he did other reporters for small publications. I worked for years at the Washington City Paper and covered a lot of the goings-on at the Washington Post. If Romenesko saw fit to link to my work, it landed on the same playing field where all the big knockers were showcased."

The circumstances of his resignation obscured a decision Romenesko, 58, had made months before, to "semi-retire," as he has called it. You cannot help but know he feels undercut by Poynter, but has been open and professional in explaining his side of what led to his resigning. …