Poynter Editor: Jim Romenesko’s Posts Have “Incomplete Attribution” But Aren’t Plagiarism

Poynter editor Julie Moos has announced that many posts written by its highly respected columnist/blogger Jim Romenesko, founder of the Romenesko blog, “exhibit a pattern of incomplete attribution.” Namely, the  posts in question “included the original author’s verbatim language without containing his or her words in quotation marks, as they should have.”

The Romenesko blog is one of the most well-known, and revered, blogs in the industry and read daily by journalists everywhere. Romenesko, who has now resigned who is semi-retiring, has been around for years and is looked up to by many. So this announcement was very surprising.

Moos is very careful not to use the P-word — plagiarism — in the post. I emailed her to ask her why she didn’t consider Romenesko’s actions to be plagiarism. Her response:

“Jim’s intent was to credit the source and his posts do that with a source line and at least one link back to the original material, often more. He is transparent about where the information originated, he just missed a step by failing to signal the reader with quotation marks when verbatim text was being used. Others are free to characterize it how they wish, I don’t characterize it as plagiarism, which usually involves an intent to deceive.”

While Romenesko’s posts always link to and mention his information sources, normally more than once, the fact that he uses the exact words of other authors and doesn’t put them in quotation marks is against Poynter’s guidelines and practice.

If Romenesko had not resigned, some changes would have been made to his work. It would be edited before publication (which it wasn’t before) and there would have been a much larger effort to ensure it followed Poynter’s standards of attribution, Moos said in the announcement

Poynter should be lauded for its transparency regarding this matter. It could not have been an easy issue for the organization to deal with and the fact that they made it this public is commendable.

Romenesko is also being open about the issue. On his Google+ page, he links to Moos’ post and asks, “Have I summarized your posts over the years? Was I fair, or did you feel I stole your words? Please let me know.”

What do you think about this situation? Has Romenesko ever “stolen your words?” Would you qualify it as plagiarism or just as an honest mistake?

Note: Romenesko resigned after this post was originally published. It has been modified to reflect that.