For the past 12 years, Jim Romenesko has been the guy who rapidly rounds up and links to every little morsel of gossipy, wonky, inside-baseball journalism news for diehard media junkies.
Over the past few months, however, following the latest changes to the website of the Poynter Institute, which hosts the 57-year-old newsman's industry blog, The Cutline has noticed a curious trend: what the old-school print-journalism set calls "reporting." True, we're not talking deep investigations or high-level scoops. But at the very least, it's refreshing to see a guy who's made a career out of aggregating other people's news putting his own questions in front of flacks. Or to see him do a fun Q&A with the author of "the best journalism want ad ever." Or going out of his way, for the 17th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide, to add some color to an account of how the press originally covered the tragedy. Or talking to the Baltimore City Paper reporter who candidly disclosed his former pot-buying habits in a piece about a drug bust. And so on.
"After aggregating for a dozen years, I decided to shift gears a bit and do some reporting too. It's a good change of pace," Romenesko, who did stints as a reporter and editor at the Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the St. Paul Pioneer Press before launching the site that eventually became Romenesko in 1999, told The Cutline over email earlier this week. (He's on a "semi-vacation" in Wisconsin, so two of his Poynter colleagues have been filling in on the blog.)
"Also," he continued, "when I started aggregating for Poynter in 1999, there were only a few journalism 'town criers' on the Internet; now with Facebook, Twitter, etc., there are millions. I just felt I needed to adjust to the world of social media." And even without the additional pressure of new formats, Romenesko is working in a far more crowded media news market than was the case a dozen years ago.
To put the new playing field in perspective, here's a quote from an Aug. 2, 1999, New York Times article about Romenesko's operation.
"Summaries of news predate the Internet, of course. But in the digital era, when virtually anyone with Net access can operate an electronic clipping service, the genre has spawned thousands of news hounds—not to mention the news links on big portal sites like Yahoo and Excite," wrote Andy Wang. "Yet, largely through grass-roots, word-of-mouse popularity, sites like Mr. Romenesko's are catching on with a discerning crowd -- including reporters and editors of many news organizations, who rely on the sites to help filter the welter of information on the Web."
Very quaint, indeed.
(Image via Mediaite's Power Grid ranking)