With news that my former employer Patch is still losing money, I have a message to those in the media industry: Don’t let your bias blind you to talented journalists.
Whenever I read an article about AOL’s local news network Patch, I usually find some snide comments ranging from the average reader to those in the journalism profession. There are those who can’t wait to see Patch belly up, as if they have some sick fascination to not only see more than 800 sites go down the toilet, but to also see more than a 1,000 journalists out of work. And that’s what worries me the most.
The economy is still bad, especially in the journalism industry where newsrooms are still laying people off. Hey, if this was 30 years ago and news jobs where falling out of the sky, sure you could all do the dance of joy over the demise of Patch.
But that isn’t the case now. And I’m here to tell you guys that while I was editor of Pennsylvania’s Haverford-Havertown Patch I had the honor of working with some talented journalists who had long careers in newspapers and broadcast news networks.
Now some critics have made some good points about Patch editors. One of the most popular ones that I find on the Web is that many Patch editors are right out of college. Sure, that’s a fair criticism. But then again, I worked with some editors from right out of college who had more common sense about the job than those who were in management positions.
And besides, where else do you expect journalism grads to gain experience? As I mentioned before, there aren’t a whole lot of news companies hiring. If you have a better suggestion I’m all ears.
Now a lot of critics blast Patch because it doesn’t do any original reporting and they are “scraping” (copying and pasting) from other news rivals. OK, I’m not a fan of this either. But after reading about the reconstructuring at many Patch sites on Jim Romenesko’s blog, it sounds as if a lot of these editors don’t have a choice.
Yes, some have said that they should quit the job and while quitting a job out of journalistic principle sounds wonderful (and Lord knows I’ve thought about doing that at some of the places I’ve worked at over the years) the reality is principles don’t pay the bills. Not all of these editors are recent college grads. Again these people are old pros with families to support. Besides, young or old, who wants to be out of work and no money coming in?
So I say this to my journalistic peers: If a job applicant happens to have “Patch” on his or her cover letter, don’t throw it in the trash. It’s important to note that many of the stories that a good number of editors have done are the same high quality that can be found in any other news outlet. And Patch editors are known for their diversity: Reporting, writing, taking pictures and videos, just to name the few.
I would hate to see anyone not get a job simply because that person has Patch on his or her resume. My advice: Look beyond the name and judge the quality of work they did at Patch and their other places of employment.
Let me leave you with this final thought: There are going to be some outstanding Patch editors, while others probably shouldn’t be allowed to have a pen and notepad. But then again, isn’t that true at other places?Here are some other Patch-related columns