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November 12 2011

10:25

Poynter faculty responds to questions about Jim Romenesko’s practices and resignation

Looks like a very open response of Poynter's faculty but honestly ... I think it still misses the point. I was never confused about the origin of the content Jim Romenesko published. I always found the original link and the sources attributed sufficiently. What was original about his work? - I know that he made it easier to find interesting stuff on the web. And that was the value HE added. - But now it's time for Poynter to take the floor ...

Poynter :: Roy Peter Clark, Vice President and Senior Scholar: "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 (Moos) 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."

Selected statements:

[Karen Dunlap, President:] Did we make the right choices? Not all of them. Could we have improved the message or tone? Yes.
[Roy Peter Clark:] Jim Romenesko is not, repeat only louder, NOT a plagiarist.
[Kelly McBride:] 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.

Full list of contributors to this response: 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

Continue to read The Poynter Institute, www.poynter.org

December 11 2009

15:36

E&P and the emotional commitment of a subscription

I heard the news about Editor & Publisher closing as I hear many things these days — through Twitter. Patrick Thornton (jiconoclast) tweeted: “Does anything better symbolize the state of print media right now than the closure of E&P? Yes things are very bad.” At first, I hoped his tweet didn’t mean what I knew it meant. But a quick search of Twitter yielded proof. Yes, E&P had told its staff Thursday that it was shutting down operations.

This shook me even more than when Gourmet announced its closure a while back. (I found out about that on Twitter, too.)

I read E&P almost religiously in my early years as a journalist, devouring it the moment it arrived in my mailbox. The magazine had a bright purple cover back then. As time went on, I didn’t renew my subscription. I’m not sure why.

I enjoyed E&P’s articles. I appreciated the reporting. In fact, in the last few years, its web site became one of regular online haunts to find out what’s going on in the news business. Sometimes, I’d head to the E&P web page myself, but more often I’d be drawn there by a well-worded tweet or a blog post from someone whose opinion I valued.

Now, I have no information about why E&P shut down, but I’d assume lack of ad revenues or subscriptions had something to do with it. So perhaps I was part of the problem. Or at least me and the many others like me who appreciated E&P’s content but didn’t buy it. Or maybe how I read E&P was just a sign of the times, part of this changing way we consume the news, in small bits throughout the day triggered by smart people we follow online.

That got me thinking. Why didn’t I pay for E&P while it was still here? Why didn’t I subscribe? Would I have subscribed online if they offered it?

The truth is, for me, not subscribing — either in print or online — has little to do with money. It’s about commitment. And I think that’s the problem many news organizations are facing as they try to bring their products online.

In the old days, I paid for E&P because if I didn’t, I’d have no idea what was going on in the industry. I wasn’t paying for news; I was paying for the chance to be in the know in my field.

Things changed with the web. Now, if I choose one magazine to subscribe to out of myriad sources, it feels like I’m limiting my options in a way. I don’t want to commit to one publication, one source, one newspaper, one magazine. Why? Because the publication has become less important than the news itself. I want to be free to surf, reading dozens of different newspapers, blogs or magazines that I may visit just once or twice. I enjoy the synchronicity of happening upon a publication I have never heard of and will probably never visit again.

Yes, I realize that even if I subscribe to one publication, I can still read others. But the act of subscribing is picking one over the others. If you’re a runner, you have a choice of two major magazines: Runner’s World or Running Times. By picking one, you’re choosing not to pick the other. You might glance at the other once in a while, but you probably don’t read them both cover to cover.

I think many of us feel that if we pay for a publication, we expect it to become one of our primary news sources — not just one of dozens of places where we get news. I may feel a bit cheated if I end up getting more of my news elsewhere. I may feel cheated if I subscribe but forget to check the site every day, going instead only when a Facebook friend sends me a link.

In a sense, it’s the dilemma with the makings of a country song: If I subscribe, I feel like I have to dance with the one who brung me — when I really want to play the field.

So maybe at some level I didn’t subscribe to E&P in print because I knew if I headed online, I’d get lots of E&P-like news. Sure, some of it would start with E&P’s reporting, with commentary added by bloggers. Some of it would be from other sources. I was interested in getting as much news and information as I could about the journalism industry. I wasn’t interested in one particular brand.

So what is the answer to that? To me it always comes back to the question: What are you really paying for? I’d gladly pay for online information, a small monthly fee like I pay for my television viewing, a subscription to the whole web. What I don’t want to do is pay for one brand, one publication. I want to be free to follow the news.

A good example of what I mean is Jim Romenesko’s blog at Poynter Online. I read it almost every day. It’s in my RSS reader — but I don’t usually get to it from there. I don’t need to. I remember to check it. I remember to check it because I won’t just find E&P stories there — as great as they were — but I’ll find a whole lot more. It’s like the good ol’ days, when E&P was selling me the chance to be in the know in my field. And that, honestly, I would pay for.

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