More Messages: Poynter Makes a Point

Categories: Media
A February 23 blog concerned an admission by folks at the Greeley Tribune that they'd routinely published reports from other area newspapers under an Associated Press byline without going through the AP. The Trib's article about this practice noted that it had begun under the editorshop of Chris Cobler (pictured), who had recently been named the managing editor of Poynter Online, the Internet branch of the Poynter Institute, a Florida school that places an enormous emphasis on ethics.

Things have changed for Cobler since then. Today, Poynter's journalism-news page, overseen by Jim Romenesko, posted a memo from Poynter Online editor Bill Mitchell noting that Cobler would no longer be coming aboard.

Here's the text of Mitchell's note:

Colleagues:

We've come to the mutual conclusion with Chris Cobler that he should not take up his position as managing editor of Poynter Online.

Since word of the improper usage of AP material by the Greeley Tribune first came to our attention last week, we have done our best to make sense of the conflicting reports about just what happened. We have not been able to satisfy ourselves that we have a clear picture of what Chris's role may or may not have been.

In the course of interviewing many of his current and former colleagues and competitors over the last several days, we heard much that confirmed our initial judgment of Chris as an extraordinarily talented and accomplished journalist well suited for a leadership position at Poynter. At the same time, Chris agrees that our inability to resolve doubts that have arisen would make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to succeed in the job.

We appreciate the concern that Chris has expressed that his hiring not call into question the ideals that Poynter strives to reflect.

Because we found ourselves in the unusual circumstance of dealing with questions raised publicly about someone we had already hired but who had not yet reported for work, it's important that we be as forthcoming as appropriate about how we've resolved the situation. We've tried to do that above, and will not be making any comments beyond this statement. The Institute has a longstanding policy and practice of not discussing personnel matters.

We wish the best for Chris and his family.

Bill

This decision was no doubt unpleasant for Cobler, but it only enhances Poynter's reputation. There's no question that the Tribune's policy regarding AP reprints was beyond dubious, and because it happened on Cobler's watch, he would have arrived at his new job already under an ethical cloud. And when it rains, it pours. -- Michael Roberts

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