Jim Romenesko Plans 'Semi-Retirement' With Launch Of Personal Site (EXCLUSIVE)
NEW YORK -- When Jim Romenesko attended an annual Poynter Institute board meeting in 2002, a few years after bringing his pioneering brand of media blogging and aggregation to the journalism school's site, some of the country's top editors complained that he was publishing internal memos and alt-weekly stories detailing their newsroom spats.
But in the years that followed, Romenesko says, "It got to the point where editors sent me their own memos and admitted they were crafting their memos for publication on Romenesko."
That's just one of the ways that the media -- and the coverage of the media -- has changed since Romenesko first started waking up at 5 a.m. in the late 1990s to chronicle the industry's ups and downs. Now, after 12 years running a virtual newsroom watercooler for the Poynter Institute, Romenesko is ready for a change.
In Jan. 2012, Romenesko will launch his own site -- JimRomenesko.com -- and become a part-time staffer for Poynter. He'll post casually to the media-news blog, the soon-to-be renamed "Romenesko+," and will continue tweeting from the @romenesko and @poynter Twitter accounts. Poynter's Julie Moos, Steve Myers and Jeff Sonderman will also contribute to the revamped Romenesko blog.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, the 57-year-old journalist said he's been thinking about doing something new for awhile and must have gotten the "12-year itch." (He left Milwaukee magazine after 12 years, too). "I went back and forth to renewing (my contract), not renewing," Romenesko said. "In the end, I decided I wanted to go back and do my own blog, the way I was before Poynter picked me up."
Romenesko's no stranger to launching new sites. In addition to media news, he launched and still runs Starbucks Gossip and Obscure Store, a quirky news site that was the original home of his media gossip. He plans on folding Obscure Store after Labor Day.
For his forthcoming site, Romenesko said he won't just be focused on media. Indeed, the tagline says it all: "A blog about media ... and other things I'm interested in."
But when Romenesko turns his attention to the media, he plans on doing reported items rather than comprehensive aggregation. A former newspaper reporter, Romenesko told Yahoo! News last April that he hoped to do more reporting for the Poynter site; and in recent months, he'd been more free to do so as Moos, Myers and Sonderman started contributing additional posts.
In moving away from aggregation, Romenesko -- who's rarely been photographed and doesn't appear on cable chat shows or attend industry conferences -– says he'll do face-to-face interviews in his reporting, something he hasn't done "in a helluva lot of time."
Romenesko’s probably been more closely tied to the media news cycle than any other national figure, even though he works primarily from his Evanston, Illinois, home and nearby coffee shops. Even on his rare vacations, Romenesko hasn't been able to stay away from what was going in New York studios or newspaper newsrooms around the country. Two years ago, he found himself posting from Amsterdam cafes as the smell of marijuana smoke wafted through the air. Even during a biking trip last month, Romenesko stopped to check the latest news on Twitter.
As Romenesko heads into what he describes as "semi-retirement," he should have more time to disconnect from the seemingly endless churn of media news and gossip. Romenesko also isn't setting out to make JimRomenesko.com a major commercial enterprise: in fact, he describes it as "more of a hobby site."
Three years ago, former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines profiled Romenesko for Portfolio magazine and suggested that the online innovator sell out to the highest bidder. It's not the first time Romenesko's gotten such advice: He recalls that New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin also once advised him years ago to turn his successful online brand into big money.
But Romenesko says following Deadline's Nikki Finke or MediaBistro's Laurel Touby to wild profits from their online businesses has never tempted him.
"I never saw (those deals) and said, 'Damn, that could have been me,'" Romenesko said. "Poynter compensated me well, and I just didn't have huge dreams like that. I always thought that in my retirement, I would just do a hobby site on my own, and I guess that's what JimRomenesko.com will be."
For media beat reporters, it's tough to imagine Romenesko not curating the day's media news. I started sending links and having the occasional email exchange with Romenesko once I took over the New York Observer's "Off the Record" column in 2006. But I wasn't the only Observer writer to appear on Romenesko's site: he rattled off the names of 11 predecessors and successors on the beat whom he's "had the privilege of linking to" over the years. Indeed, Romenesko's had incredible staying power in an ever-changing industry, where countless publications and hot new start-ups have come and gone over the past 12 years.
Romenesko, however, is modest about his place the media world. And these days, he contends there are many other ways to shine a light onto the industry than when he started out.
"In the early 2000's, I remember somebody saying I was the journalism community's town crier," Romenesko said. "Now with Twitter and Facebook, there are a million town criers out there."