Now I Can Retire
For anyone who writes on media topics, it doesn't get any better than earning a link from Romenesko. That's shorthand for Jim Romenesko, once a veteran journeyman newspaper and magazine writer, and now arguably among the three to five most influential people in American media. And all because he got serious about the web early, and stayed with it. More about him in a moment.
The link was to my initial Free Times media column, which thus got off on its maiden voyage last week with a serious bang. Being linked from Romenesko is the equivalent of national publication, because most of those who work in American media--in every medium--tend to read Romenesko, if not daily then perhaps hourly. It functions as the media's digital water cooler, the place where nearly everyone goes to check up on developments in the media, news about those who work in it, own it or are covered by it. It's a place where you're just as likely to see stories about legendary characters like Ben Bradlee as you are some ethical scandal in a small-town newspaper. A link on Romenesko puts a story in national play, where everyone can mull it over, laugh about it, get angered by it, and especially follow it up (or steal the story idea, with or without attribution).
Romenesko is a former police reporter who later wrote a media column in Milwaukee magazine for 13 years. In the '90s he caught the web fever, and before going to work each morning as an Internet columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, he began posting media-related stories that interested him on a site he called MediaGossip.com. His hobby soon became his fulltime job after the Florida-based Poynter Institute, a journalism education outfit, recruited him to help draw traffic to its site. And has he ever.
Slate's Jack Shafer says the site "functions brilliantly as an ad-hoc, post-publication peer review mechanism for the journalistic profession." He also noted that it's "irreplaceable because it gives honest reporters public leverage over their corrupt colleagues, their timid editors, their bullying publishers, and their craven owners." The Boston Phoenix's then-media critic, Mark Jurkowitz, meanwhile, once noted how Romenesko wields significant influence on media culture "by establishing a kind of town square where an event in one newsroom can be instantly relayed to a wide audience and then trigger a noisy clash over values and standards."
What I, and I think many others, love best about Romenesko is how he's proven that one smart, discerning person, intelligently leveraging the web, can have the kind of impact on an entire profession that it once would have taken a staff of hundreds of people to achieve.