Sunday, June 26, 2005

The $152,163 Romenesko Question

Interesting item on Friday in the FishbowlDC Blog, "Things You Might Have Missed If You Only Read Romenesko." This addresses something that has become pretty obvious in recent months, which is that the widely read Romenesko online media column, sponsored by the Poynter Institute, is arbitrary and politically skewed in its items, links and letters.

FishBowlDC points out one of Romenesko's shortcomings, which is that he has an "odd hatred of bloggers and loathes linking to blogs." That is certainly true, and I have a theory as to why that is--blogs very often beat the pants off of him, and bloggers are generally paid nothing.

By contrast, Romenesko is doing very nicely. Very nicely. In 2003, the most recent year for which IRS Form 990 figures are available for the Poynter Institute, he was paid the not inconsiderable sum of $152,163, plus $17,024 in benefits and deferred compensation. He was the highest paid employee of Poynter, as a matter of fact.

What do readers of Romenesko get for these generous payments to James P. Romenesko? Well, one gets a daily feed of news items, but with some stuff left out, and letters--with ones he doesn't like left out. Among the latter was a well-reasoned letter on the CJR/Navasky controversy, a subject almost completely ignored by the mainstream media and ignored by Romenesko except for a tiny "sidebar" link most people would miss if they blinked.

Romenesko also completely ignored the UN correspondent payola scandal, even while giving saturation coverage to a similar controversy surrounding Armstrong Williams. This suggests an ideological bias, as does his underplaying of the revelation that the nation's leading journalism review has been secretly run by the publisher of The Nation.

One can imagine how Romenesko would go ballistic if William F. Buckley secretly took control of CJR. Or how he'd hit the roof if Buckley took over the CJR and a National Review guy got caught up in an ethical issue ignored by CJR. In fact, The Nation's UN correspondent, Ian Williams, is at the center of the UN correspondent scandal--and not a peep has come from Romenesko concerning this messy affair.

One thing that makes the CJR/Navasky story significant is that it was broken by a blog--the DavidM blog whose CEO, I trust, makes a good deal less than $152,000 for his media watchdog work.

That might be a good subject for the Poynter Institute to study--if they could afford it. This very generous-paying organization is not exactly a cash cow. In 2003 it took in about $4.7 million in revenues (counting some mutual funds it cashed in at a steep loss). Altogether, during 2003 expenses exceeded revenues by $4.6 million. Golly, seems to me they ought to economize. (I can suggest a personnel cut, if they are interested...)

Compare the generous Romenesko payments to the poverty level wages earned by the elderly Moonbat Alexander Cockburn. Cocky was grossly overpaid the sum of $15,900 in 2003 for his hate-filled ramblings in Counterpunch. I guess venom is not worth as much in the free marketplace of ideas as an incomplete, politically skewed listing of media-news items.

UPDATES: A reply to Andrew Sullivan; Payday at Poynter; Romenesko on the Hillary bandwagon.

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