‘There are no layoffs planned,’ says Patch

Patch spokeswoman Janine Iamunno says in response to today’s post about the sites:

There are no layoffs planned.

While we don’t discuss budgets, we’re more confident than ever in our business model and in our editors’ ability to serve their communities with the content they care about most. We’re used to intense media scrutiny and speculation, more often inaccurate than not, but we remain focused on our mission, our employees, our users and our advertisers.

Meanwhile, Patch editor-in-chief Brian Farnham sent this email to his staff after reading this morning’s post. My comment: We’ll see in a bit who is giving out “bad information.”

Big sigh from me on this one. Romenesko is reporting bad information he got from someone at Patch who sadly thinks he/she knows what’s “really going on”.

So, let me try to clear this up: we’re not doing cookie-cutter anything. We are, of course, doing programming, which we’ve always done, and which can be defined as repeatable, relevant content for your audience. And all the ideas we’re doing came from editors in the field who had proved they worked, not from HQ! But programming is part of the mix, not all of it.

And we’re still very much committed to the “One Team” approach we just kicked off. We’re creating a structure where the field is given the power and responsibility to really drive their own businesses — from a unified perspective of Sales and Edit. Editors still have to judge what to cover and how for their towns. Those decisions will ALWAYS be constrained by resources, be they money or people. The same way they are at every media company in the universe.

I’m with you Mark on the PIP noise in this piece — no idea what that’s about. (I’m guessing the leaker might be on one actually). This is another thing pretty much every respectable real company in the world does, and it’s a positive — a structured way of saying to an employee, “You need to work on these areas so let’s create a plan to do so.” It’s focus is IMPROVEMENT. Yes, we just went through reviews and some people didn’t do well. That’s a reality. Getting them to improve is in everyone’s interest. And people who don’t improve may not be a good fit here, but that’s up to managers to decide. None of this is exactly radical practice.

I’m really sorry that we all have to deal with people in our own editorial family who think Romenesko is somehow a good person with whom to share their half-baked, uninformed opinions about the business at large.

As with all the other leakers we’ve had to deal with, they’re not helping their colleagues, they’re bad teammates, bad employees, dishonest people and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Comments

comments

23 comments
  1. Mark said:

    The editor of my community’s Patch, a person in their early 20s with limited journalism experience, actually has done a pretty good job of covering the community.

    But I can’t see how Patch could ever turn a profit as it stands.

    I just looked today at our local site and saw a single, small, local banner ad that wasn’t even run-of-site. The other two ads were for Verizon and a shoe company. I have no way of knowing if those are contract ads or if Patch gets cash when the ad is clicked on.

    As Patch and AOL are beginning to understand, newsgathering is a very expensive proposition. The ad revenues, at first glance, don’t look like they can support the operation.

    It was a good experiment but it’s not quite there yet.

    Make no mistake: The editors working for Patch are busting their collective butts. I think any editor — I know I would — would be glad to have them on staff.

  2. Patch is just a passing thing. Ladies and gentlemen, fax your resumes. When they say ‘no layoffs are planned” they already know the number of people they will axe.

  3. Mark said:

    vanderleun is right… I’ve read a few stories saying that AOL would be profitable without Patch. I can’t believe that they’d let the bleeding continue….

  4. Patch is clearly the Scientology of journalism.

  5. Dan said:

    JIm,let’s be real here for a second. You’re writing a critical story based from the account of one source working for a company with thousands of employees. Let’s think about that for a second: 1 person, one employee, from a company that employs thousands, and you go with it? Everyone get that? It’s unethical. 100-percent unethical. When did the golden rule that journalists confirm information from more than one source change? And now you’re taunting the editor in chief? Come back in six months? I can guarantee you that there will be some changes with Patch in six months, and some people may have different jobs, move on, but what you reported goes against everything Patch is doing to inspire us folks in the trenches. Here is some inside information–Patch doesn’t wait six months to do anything. We move fast. We take risks and we’ve failed at some tasks and succeeded at others. And you leave the impression that bad news is good news for 1000 people, many who are busting their butts. If what you wrote is accurate, you’ll know in a month, not six. Trust me. You are better than this, Jim. I’m floored.

  6. Jack said:

    In 2010, Patch went from 60 or so sites to 700 in about 7 months.

    I really think it is hilarious that the media expects Patch to be profitable overnight. But lets forget that for a second.

    There are more than 850 sites. So, what one editor says about Patch must be true for every editor/site at Patch?

    I read comments on this blog about local newspaper reporters/editors/owners saying they would be thrilled if Patch shut down. I wonder why?

    The media hates Patch. This is established. It’s fun to hate on Patch. But, their readers, community, love Patch.

    Sadly, Jim R. is going to put any objectivity aside and pursue this story with an agenda – that he’s right.

    Even more confusing is Jim’s attacks on Patch as journalists. Funny, he speaks to one editor. I guess he couldn’t pick up the phone and talk to other editors. One source story (who is obviously disgruntled).

    Hey Jim – I’m gonna send you an email. I’m gonna tell you that Patch makes its editors do lines of blow at mandatory parties. I’ll also say Patch superiors use their company cards to purchase hookers on the weekend. And then, I’ll watch you report it.

    Ugh …

  7. Jim said:

    This is a repeat performance of my coverage of Microsoft Sidewalk in the late 1990s. I reported doubts about its survival, and people said I was wrong.

    I wonder if the young people who work at Patch even know what Sidewalk was. I’ll just say this: it was a lot like Patch.

  8. Mark said:

    Jim and Patch have a history? Patch reported what about three dozen other media outlets did… I’m unclear why that’s a “history.”

    But what the Patch story didn’t point out is the entire affair was complete and utter HORSESHIT.

    So maybe he fucked up and misplaced a quote mark. Maybe he didn’t. But is that what modern American journalism has come to? Crucify people and attempt to destroy careers over BS like that?

    God help you people if you ever face any “real” problems in life.

    FYI: I’m not friends with Jim, never met him, probably wouldn’t know him if I ran into him in a subway train.

  9. Jim said:

    As an FYI, pro-Patch writers “STEVE” and “JACK” have the same IP address, I notice.

  10. Not Patchy said:

    “we’re more confident than ever in our business model and in our editors’ ability to serve their communities with the content they care about most.”

    Nope. That’s not PR, that’s lying (though sometimes they’re close). They’re mandating cookie-cutter content (despite Farnham’s assertions to the contrary) and if they were more confident than ever in their business model, they wouldn’t be changing the business model and shuffling responsibility every few weeks.

  11. Steve Jack said:

    Again, Jim, “What’s true about one site must hold true for every site.”

    Every academic will tell you this is a FLAWED theory. Sidewalk.com, angry Patch editor, you can’t apply one thing you learned from one person/story to 860+ websites.

    FYI – I’m commenting on a story. Jim is REPORTING a story. Off one source … that’s disgruntled. Sigh.

    @ MARK

    He didn’t get one quote wrong. He got kicked out of Poynter for getting multiple quotes wrong and probably some other crap. And his hometown Patch covered it.

    FYI – Pro Jim R. writers Mark and Jim have the same IP address. lol as if that’s relevant.

  12. High marks for “Patch is clearly the Scientology of journalism.”

    We see that proven right here in this thread. The kook-aid drinkers from patch are here right on time.

  13. swish said:

    Venderleun you can’t be any more wrong. I’ve made comments on the earlier story about Patch on another thread.

    What is so terrible to you about having a community reporter/editor/photographer writing stories about a small to mid-size suburban town?

    How is that anything like scientology?

    Patch editors are just multimedia journalists trying to make a living like everybody else. We aren’t sellouts. A 40,000-45,000 a year salary does not a sellout make.

  14. hfs radio fan said:

    I began with Patch going to sporting events every night back in Jan of 2010. That slowed to fewer assignments. Now there are no freelance jobs left. Sorry; they try to do a good job.

  15. Mark said:

    @Steve Jack — You’re on a sinking ship and either you’re too proud or naive to understand the thing is falling to pieces…

    All those $40K to $45K salaries are going down the tubes right with it and all the “lol” and cutesy insinuations in your postings won’t be able to save it.

    It’ll be a business decision, nothing more. Understand this… I think Patch editors on the whole are doing a great job at what they’ve been tasked to do.

    But there is simply not enough money being generated to pay for operations. It’s that simple.

  16. swish said:

    @ Mark well, at least you’re giving Patch editors credit for at least trying to do their jobs well. What frustrates me are the insinuations some make that editors aren’t ‘real’ journalists somehow.

    I’ve seen fantastic professionals at print newspapers get laid off. It is not necessarily anything to do with the quality of their work, sometimes management genuinely just wants to go in a different direction.

    If Patch lays everyone off then I will try and get unemployment just like all the other workers in the country in the same position as me. Maybe I’ll even have to join the dark side. Who knows.

    The grave dancing that a lot of Patch’s critics engage in, however, puzzles me.

  17. Mark said:

    @Swish – Please know, I’m not grave dancing at all. I’m just presenting what I believe to be the economic reality.

    The woman who runs my local Patch does a hell of a job covering the community. Frankly, with as many stories as she turns out, I don’t know how she finds the hours to sleep. She’d be an asset to any news organization.

    The problem is, AOL is taking the concept of aggressively covering small communities and trying to turn that into a huge moneymaker. I’m not sure you can do it. My community has 17,000 people. There aren’t a lot of businesses in town. Even if you got every business to buy a banner ad, I doubt you could make enough money to cover expenses, salary, benefits and stringers, not to mention equipment and mileage. On top of that, you have to satisfy the AOL shareholders, which places tremendous pressure on the whole operation.

    So now, a small news operation that might reasonably be able to support an entrepreneurial journalist on some smaller level, is now expected to funnel all kinds of cash up to the mothership and I can’t see how that’s sustainable.

  18. swish said:

    Fair enough, Mark.

    I’m all for people having their own opinions and thoughts about what works about Patch and what doesn’t. Even people saying that they think Patch can in no way ‘make it’ financially doesn’t particularly bother me. It bothers me in that I may have to look for another job, but business is business.

    I only get bothered when I read statements like “Patch is to journalism what Velvetta is to cheese,” which was said and ‘liked’ by over 10 journalists on another thread. That’s what gets me. That many journalists don’t give Patch editors the professional courtesy of acknowledging that Patchers for the most part are hardworking journalists just trying to do good work and make a living.

  19. Mark said:

    Swish – I think it’s really the downward pressure that a publicly traded company like AOL and its shareholders exert which doom Patch. (This is not a slam on publicly traded companies. I invest in plenty of them through my 401k and brokerage account.) To be fair to them, their investors deserve a good return. They’re putting up the money so the company can make money.

    But just because they want a return doesn’t mean they can make Patch work. Patch or Patch-like sites can work if their owners understand it’s a long slog to earn readers. But I don’t know if AOL (or its investors) have the patience to wait for it to happen.

    And any editor working for Patch could probably start their own, similar local news site and do pretty well with it financially.

    And I’ve been laid off before. It sucks. But it does get better. Hang in there!!

  20. Patch reader said:

    What I don’t understand is Mark’s (and others) apparent glee at whatever problems Patch may or may not have. What kind of a ghoul are you?

    No one promised Patch employees – or anyone else in the biz – lifetime job security. Heck, gannett and the Washington Post announced major buyouts yesterday. NOTHING is guaranteed.

    Sometimes these things last a while and sometimes they are three-year projects. Who knows? and why do some of you people care so much? I hope someone comes to your workplace and stands over you and says “I knew you’d fail!” Nice.

    I will tell you this: I know a couple of Patch editors. They do a great job and seem to like their jobs and the community is mostly happy to have them.

  21. LessPatchyTheMoreBrianTalks said:

    What’s funny here, as a Patch person, is that Romenesko is a well-known entity in journalism. Everyone reads him, yet Farnham and crew seem to think that they can beat on him and it will work.

    Folks: It is a blog, not a “story.” It says a lot about the inexperience of Patch people that Romenesko’s name is not so very recognized as someone not to be trifled with.

    Since Janine practically invited it, below is her repeat from Brian to shut the fuck up, folks.

    If Patch ever achieves the number of hits per day that our new “enemy” does, maybe I’ll think about sticking around. In the meantime, I’d like to say something to the person Farnham called a “gutless asshole” in a companywide eamil on Wednesday night: keep up the good work. I hate to speak in chiche, but the thing about “Sunshine being the best disinfectant” might actually be new to our lofty, righteous friends within the company.

    Janine Iamunno
    janine.iamunno@patch.com

    Sorry for the mass e-mail, gang – as you know, I try to do it only when absolutely necessary! There’s certainly been a lot of talk about the Romenesko “story” yesterday. As much as I appreciate the passion with which Patchers are responding to both the inaccuracies in the post and the snark from other readers, I have to again ask you to not publicly comment on press coverage, no matter how much it makes your green blood boil. I think we’re all agreed, based on the countless emails and gchats I’ve gotten, that Brian’s response was perfect in both information and tone. No one – not I, certainly – could have possibly put it better, so let’s let that remain our statement of record. You can see that Patchers’ comments are just fueling the fire of inaccurate speculation and Patch-bashing – which means those comments meant to help us are actually hurting us, and weakening our public position. Feel free to reach out with me with any questions, concerns, venting, etc. (or to share any related thoughts on working here, for the site we’re launching Monday…). Believe me when I tell you, I hate this BS as much as you do. If you only knew. But if we’re going to be taken seriously when we say we’re focused on serving our communities and not on dignifying ridiculous speculation, then we allneed to walk that walk. Moving on. (PS: Hi, Jim.)

  22. Former Patch Employee said:

    First, call it what you will(layoffs or not)….Patch has been getting rid of all the experienced freelance writers and are depending on hacks that will write for minimal wage…or as in this area….they are now just publishing links from other news sites for stories, what is the point???