Patch editor fired for aggressive comments moderation

Romenesko reader Carol Flowers wrote late yesterday: “I’ve just learned that our favorite Patch editor has been fired here in Lamorinda, California – apparently for daring to try to moderate the Patch message boards. He has been fighting for more transparency on the site. We liked him because he was always digging and asked tough questions and covered controversial stories no one else would. And he was funny.”

J.D. O’Connor, the fired editor, was dismissed by Patch on Monday — right after his never-take-a-vacation column was posted on the Lamorinda site. I asked O’Connor to tell Romenesko readers what happened.

He sends this dispatch:

Kind of a nutty end to a nutty relationship with AOL Patch. Wish ‘em the best and all but, man, do they have some strange ideas.

Cutting to chase: Yep, I’m fired. No, it didn’t come as a surprise as I guess I challenged their directives too often and, yep, it’s tough but it may be for the good ’cause I don’t work the way they want you to work.

We have a smart, engaged readership here and we’re in a political year, of course, and things got nutty. I castigated the leader of the local Democratic club and others for harpooning rival candidates without saying who she/they represented and was beefed and “management” bought it. I warned that taking no action against spammers/trolls/fifth columnists would open the doors to others and it did. That little admonition earned me a “formal warning” of dismissal and stipulation that I not delete comments without checking with an assistant regional editor [ARE] — who lives in Sacramento. Of course the site was quickly overrun by dirty tricksters.

So editorial control reverted to the ARE, who has no idea of what’s happening in my area, I was handcuffed and unable to moderate my own site, and I had the sword of Damocles hanging over my head if I took any action. Pretty much the Old Catch 22. The ARE said I “ignored his warning and defied his instructions” as he handed me my last check. I still haven’t the foggiest idea what he meant.

Lamorinda Patch was always at the top or near the top in things that matter most to Patch (UVs and sales) and it was fun building that community but my involvement has been brought to an end.

The rest of it would require a fireplace, bottle of scotch, and time to explain but, yep, Patch and me are no more.

* AOL CEO: “Patch has probably done more for local communities than any other online entity” (adweek.com)

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