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From AJR,   September 1999  issue

The Daily Media Dish Online   


By Kimberly Marselas
Kimberly Marselas is a former AJR editorial assistant     

By 8:30 every morning, technology reporter Jim Romenesko knows just about everything going on in the world of journalism. But instead of keeping the juicy ins and outs to himself, he posts all the media happenings on the Web.

Romenesko's mediagossip.com is a daily compilation of stories and industry gossip focusing on media movers and shakers. He loads the site from home each day before heading to work at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where he covers Internet culture.

"I'm surprised how quickly it's taken off," says Romenesko, who created the site in late May. Mediagossip.com was originally intended for journalists, but Romenesko says it has also done well with the mainstream audience. Although he doesn't have exact numbers, he estimates that he gets thousands of visits each day.

The new site is actually a spin-off of Romenesko's first Web venture, the Obscure Store and Reading Room (obscurestore.com), which debuted in January 1998 and featured a media section along with stories about bizarre and unusual occurrences.

"Every day I found that I had extra media-related stories that I couldn't fit on my Obscure Store site," says Romenesko, 45. "I didn't want to make it overwhelmingly media." So he snatched up a domain name and mediagossip.com was born. Now he runs both sites single-handedly, making a small profit through advertising and sales of Obscure publications.

"My No. 1 reason for doing this is enjoyment and entertainment," he says.

Satirist Bob Hirschfeld, whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, uses mediagossip.com to keep up with the newsmakers and media companies he spoofs. Hirschfeld also credits a link from mediagossip.com with getting others to notice his Web site, bobsfridge.com.

"Occasionally, I'll write little one- or two-liners that might be interpreted as commentary," says Romenesko, "but the main purpose of the site is to lead writers to good sources." In addition to providing links to stories about journalism, mediagossip.com highlights URLs to independent sites like Hirschfeld's, industry publications, media critics and columnists, and daily newspapers. Recent stories on Romenesko's site ranged from pre-launch gossip about Tina Brown's new Talk magazine to the firing of a Massachusetts editor after he "accidentally" ran a photo on his paper's front page of a nudist gathering.

Boston Phoenix media critic Dan Kennedy found out he was featured on the Obscure Store site from a political consultant.

"There was a link to my stuff between [Washington Post media writer] Howard Kurtz and [Boston Globe media writer] Mark Jurkowitz, and I thought, 'Hey, this is cool,' " says Kennedy, whose articles have since been periodically featured on mediagossip.com. "I probably go to it every day now, just to see what the media buzz is."

Kennedy sometimes e-mails Romenesko asking him to flag his columns, and he is not alone.

"Almost every day, I get a request from an editor, writer or Webmaster asking me to put their story up," says Romenesko. He decides on each story individually and tries to focus on people rather than complicated issues.

"If the media is presented right," he says, "everyone will want to read about it."