hump day havoc: patch does mass layoffs

patchfiredCan you still call it AOL Patch?  I am not sure because they mostly sold out to an entity called Hale Global recently as per the Wall Street Journal.

USA Today said on January 15th:

AOL Inc. effectively abandoned its ambitious strategy of reinventing hyper-local news when it agreed Wednesday to sell a majority stake in the Patch website network to technology investment firm Hale Global.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The companies anticipate closing the deal in the first quarter.

The deal is touted as a joint venture between AOL and Hale Global, which says it specializes in turning around underperforming businesses…..

Hale Global and AOL say Patch will be relaunched as a place for contributors and businesses to create “locally-themed news and content.” ….”We are committed to bringing users, local businesses, writers and advertisers together into a Patch experience full of innovation and growth,” said Charles Hale, CEO of Hale Global, in a statement.

Well corporate raiders, acquirers, whatever you want to call them never seem to follow through on the warm and fuzzy moments do they?  With them and underperforming assets it is all about business. And the bottom line.

Well as of today all of our local Patch sites are kind of over.   The web pages are up but this morning AOL Patch did mass layoffs.  It is all over social media and the news is slowly trickling to traditional media.  It is “off with their heads” Wednesday.

Romenesko has covered it the best thus far.  He has a recording of “Hello You are Fired”

Part of what was said (courtesy of Romanesko):

Hi everyone, it’s  Leigh Zarelli Lewis. Patch is being restructured in connection with the creation of the joint venture with Hale Global…..Unfortunately, your role has been eliminated and you will no longer have a role at Patch and today will be your last day of employment with the company

Romanesko writes:

I’m told that hundreds — two tipsters claim two-thirds of the editorial staff — have been laid off by Patch’s new owner, Hale Global…

“The patch years were years of being aol’s tool and plaything. Killed myself, almost literally. Left with literally nothing. Better off dead.”

“I was a local editor for Patch for 3.5 years, up until about an hour ago. ….We knew it was coming, but the silence from New York over the few months was deafening. They left us in a state of suspended animation. For those of us who killed ourselves working for this company, it was a real slap in the face.”

I have many friends who worked with Patch since it’s inception.  Some were traditional journalists and writers by trade. People like Tom Walsh, who is now the Public Information Officer of Lower Merion Township. Or  former Managing Editor of Main Line Media News, Tom Murray and Sam Strike from the now defunct Suburban and Wayne Times, Tom Sunnergren, Anthony Leone. And more.

Heck, when Patch was in its embryo stage I was a freelancer for photos and occasional articles for mostly Ardmore Patch.

I have been critical of Patch in the past couple of years.  It had gone from being this wonderful hub of hyper-local news to a mish mosh of spelling and grammatical errors with very little emphasis on what was happening in the communities it was covering.  But yet, there were Patch sites that continued to stand out – locally Malvern Patch until Pete Kennedy left, Phoenixville Patch, Tredyffrin-Easttown PatchEast Hampton Patch and Radnor Patch.

If I had to pick my favorite it would have been Radnor Patch, where Sam Strike was editor.  She is a friend and I have always loved her writing and photography skills.

If I had to pick a golden time for a lot of the local Patch sites, it would have been when Tom Murray was a Regional Editor.  A real newspaper guy, he really taught me how to write when I used to contribute to then Main Line Life Newspaper.

But this morning for my remaining friends at Patch like Sam Strike it was “hello, you must be going, you are fired.”

Sam Strike wasn’t the only fine Patch person who got the axe today.  Bob Byrne of Tredyffrin Patch and it looks like West Chester Patch and Malvern Patch and the list goes on. Basically if you go to Patch, click on the editor’s hyper link. It goes to an “oops there is nothing here” page. That is how I am counting up who is gone from our region.

I have been in touch with some of the Patch people I knew today.  Tom Sunnergren who now writes  for places like ESPN.com and hibu (you know those Malvern Life and similar “Life” magazines we get in the mail now once in a while?) and I spoke this afternoon for a few minutes.

Tom said he left Patch  in August 2013 for a new position and when he thought he saw the final handwriting start to appear on the wall. He told me he believes all the Patch editors in our region is gone. He said enjoyed his experience at Patch, they gave it the “college try”.  He remarked towards the end of his tenure there was a period of mixed directives that was hard on editors.

We spoke about Patch being almost a social experiment after a fashion.  He remarked it would serve as a cautionary tale to the next group that tried this hyper-local formula.

Not to armchair quarterback but at first Patch had too many sites and tons of people working for them.  Then they kept cutting people but not consolidating Patch areas to keep up with the layoffs.  First they were right there with your hyper-local news reporting on local issues from local meetings.  Then they were not covering the news but telling you  that you could blog on Patch “for free”.

The Patch sites around here operated under a mushy soft news umbrella after Tom Murray left  the Regional Editor spot for another job.

Sam Strike now former editor of Radnor Patch sent a note out to her e-mail list this afternoon:

Date: Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 1:23 PM

Subject: It’s been a pleasure

Hi all,

I wanted to let you know that it has been a pleasure working with you all over the years (some many, some few). Today Patch laid off the majority of its staff, myself included.

I’ve been doing local news in Radnor for a decade. And I’ve enjoyed it. But I think it’s time for a new challenge.

I have been and will continue to be pursuing work in the public relations/communications sector. I would appreciate any leads that you may encounter.

My Patch email will be shut down at 5 p.m. today

I was also in touch with Anthony Leone today.  He used to be a Patch editor I worked with at the Haverford-Havertown Patch. Anthony always had an uphill battle while at that Patch and so did every subsequent editor because it wasn’t just the Havertown/Haverford Township Patch. They also tossed in the town I used to live in when I lived in Lower Merion: Haverford.

Haverford, Lower Merion Township should have been attached to Bryn Mawr or Ardmore Patch but only the local editors ever got that.  Anyway, I asked Anthony what he thought and this is what he shared with me:

While it is a shame that this happened to so many of my former Patch colleagues, some of whom I have worked with personally, it is not a surprise. I do wish them the best of luck. One of the wonderful things that I have discovered since I left Patch in July 2012 is the fact that so many former Patchers are still in contact with one another and offer support.

Since I left Patch, I’ve written a lot about it on my blog What Burns My Bacon, but I thought in the beginning that they were filling a true community need, something that the readers really wanted. But over time decisions were made and it started to have a negative impact on Patch and its readers. I just hope someone can take the best parts of Patch, fix the things that were wrong with it and make something that will employ journalists and give readers what they truly desire: Original, local news.

So now what?  What is the future of journalism? Regionally and locally our newspapers have had to keep cutting back while beefing up on things like new technology and an online presence.

Years ago I had the good fortune to become aware of a blogger named Karl Martino who was one of the folks who thought up this amazing blog, a blog community really, called PhillyFuture.org which is now defunct.  One of his topics there was the future of journalism.  I wish I still had those posts he and others wrote. (he still blogs at paradox1x.)

Journalism was so different when many of us were little kids.  Real newspaper people and hard-core editors chasing the story.

Then came the failures.

I remember the first time The Philadelphia Bulletin closed. 1982.  Then the name was bought and it was resurrected for a second life. Then it died again in June 2009. It became deficit omne quod nasciture or everything that is born passes away.

Patch was launched in our area on or about September 10, 2010.  One of their editors wrote at the time:

“Want the facts without bias? A team of trained journalists covering every government meeting, every school board hearing and keeping the community abreast of local events? A brand new online newspaper launching Sept. 10, 2010 in Ardmore.  Patch.com is owned and funded by AOL, supports community journalism on a “hyperlocal” level.  Patch will cover all of the goings on in its three namesake communities, and will be updated multiple times every day with breaking news and information. “

The initial Patch sites in the greater Philadelphia area went “live” at 10:55 a.m. on September 10, 2010.   The Patch editors were ironically all fired by that time today.

Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote an interesting article about the future of journalism on Attytood this past October 16th.

He said in the article titled Like it or not, this is the future of American journalism  :

I think we’re seeing that since actual civic-minded good-for-you news and investigative reporting  — propped up for more than a century by department store ads, classifieds and crossword puzzles — has zero economic value in the digital free market, there’s only one thing that will keep it alive. And it’s not really what those hundreds of journalism reform articles I read over all those years were about — things like reader engagement and crowdsourcing and using social media (although those things matter).

It’s really just about very rich people.

And not just any very rich people, but very rich people with an agenda.

Given the state of politics and craziness that has defined the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise again of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News I am almost surprised he was able to articulate much of this particular piece.

But is he wrong? Sadly, I think not.

Who will be our voices in Chester County now?   We get some coverage on TV if too many people in Philadelphia aren’t being murdered or politicians aren’t causing scandal.  But as far as local news, we don’t have much coverage by the Philadelphia Inquirer (they jettisoned their Chester County bureau a few years ago), and the Daily Local and Main Line Media News are stretched thin.

Will we be our own voices? We have all but run out of our traditional real-time story tellers A/K/A reporters and editors.

Not surprisingly most major media outlets like the New York Times are now starting to report on the Patch editorial massacre today.  They all are saying that neither AOL Patch nor new owner Hale Global would comment on the layoffs.

Interestingly enough according to Fox News a Patch that survived with editor intact apparently is Greenwich Patch.  As in Greenwich, CT. Why? Because Tim Armstrong (AOL) lives there basically. Fox reports that AOL still owns 40% of Patch.

To now former Radnor Patch Editor Sam Strike and Tredyffrin-Easttown and lately Phoenixville Patch Editor Bob Byrne I wanted to say thank you. They were among the last editors standing until today that I really respected.  They are true journalists and are people of integrity.

My friend and former editor  (as well as Patch Regional Editor) Tom Murray said to me today “Very sad day when journalist and friends lose their jobs.”

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

What is the future of media? Journalism?

winter gardening

gardeningAhhh, I know all of you, you were hoping for a winter gardening post.  Hoping that in the midst of all this I may have discovered something amazing outside this morning.

Nope.

Just a little winter gardening humor from a friend.  After all, it is like the freaking Tundra out there…. so there is no winter gardening.  Only a fervent wish for all my plants to survive and thrive in the spring. Once spring gets here, that is.

Inside is not much better.  My rosemary plant has given up the ghost and so has my beautiful bay leaf tree and the Mandevilla vine I inherited from the previous homeowner is not faring much better.

My inner gardener is VERY frustrated with this winter.  And I say that knowing that a very cold winter is actually not the worst thing for the garden. Except right now is the ugly phase of the winter garden.  Everything is ice, snow, frozen mud and cold.  And it is too early for the snow drops to emerge. I hope all my hostas make it through the winter, but only spring will tell me that for sure.

So I think I will pick out my virtual herb garden for the spring today.  I tuck herbs in everywhere I can – in pots, in beds, along paths. I love Colonial Creek Farm for the things I cannot source locally.  And I might look for one more rose…..a climber for the side of the house….David Austin of course.

It is time to begin the plant wish list for spring.

I go to my favorite nursery sites and I choose what I want and print out the order list.  I am not ordering today, but I want a list of what cultivars intrigue me. I know, I know I am creating plant wish lists….but it makes dealing with the Tundra temperatures so much easier that way!

After that I will peruse my copy of Suzy Bales’ The Garden in Winter.  It was one of the books she sent to me and I think today is a day where I have to find my love of my winter garden again.

Grumblingly yours,

The Frustrated Gardener in Winter

 

 

 

 

redefining happiness

DSC_1563

Took this love and I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
And can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Oh oh I don’t know, oh I don’t know

~Lyrics by Stevie Nicks “Landslide” / Fleetwood Mac

I love Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac.  Always have.  “Landslide” is one of those songs I have loved and loved well for years.  It is also one of those lyrical and interpretive songs that I think takes on new meaning every time you listen to it. Landslide was released in 1975.   I think I first became really aware of the song around 1980 or 1981.

What it triggers in me today as a thoughts process is completely different from when I first heard it. When I first heard the song I was dancing on the edge of my life between being a teenager and trying to become an adult.  Now I am an adult, and my life has changed a great deal (for the better) in the past few years. This is the year I turn 50, and my personal happiness is greatly redefined, so this song has new meaning yet again.

That all being said, there always has been a constant about this song. To me the constant  has been the question of what is happy and how do you handle life. Or at least I think so.

I sometimes think it is unfair to ask someone if they are happy.  Not because it is a bad thing, but because it is such a loaded question. Being happy at 14 is different from being happy at 18, which is different when you hit 21, and so it goes from there until all of a sudden you are looking at 50. And face it, do you remember being a teenager and hearing someone was 50 years old? (Laugh out loud now, it’s o.k.)

As you get older you can’t help but wonder (if you are honest with yourself) “am I happy, or am I settling to be happy?” Or the more simplified life question of “what is happy?”

It has taken me until the past  few to be able to say I am happy with my whole heart.  It took a lot to get here.

Face it, human beings are a work in progress. Each experience has its own learning curve and living life out loud is not without the occasional bumps in the road and path deviations.  I have learned that it is all what you do with the bumps and path deviations.

In a sense I feel I have come full-circle.  I am with someone I went to high school with.  We never dated back then, were aware of one and other, shared many friends. We traveled in similar, yet different circles. He was a boy I was just friends with in high school.

Yet as an adult when I realized I was falling in love with him, I felt like I was coming full-circle and my heart was coming home to entirely where it should be.  Yet I knew if I had not had my life before us, we wouldn’t have found our “us.” I also feel that falling in love with someone who knew you when you really weren’t even a fully formed person is a big bonus.  And no, it doesn’t have to make sense to you, it does however make its own sense to me. With him, I am truly home.

So here we are, and we are in our life together. Am I happy? Yes. Almost dizzyingly so at times. Some days it just bubbles up within me.  I laugh at the silliest things. There is more of a lightness of spirit. I feel free and well-loved.

What is happy? So many things.  Happy is the sight of a sleeping child curled up in a quilt.  Happy is watching dogs frolic.  Happy is hearth, home, garden. Happy is knowing you love and are loved. Happy is knowing you can trust. Happy is being able to be yourself freely.  Happy is being able to share this with friends and family. Happy is living in Chester County.  There is more to happy, but you catch my drift. Happy is being happy and content in your own life.

Being happy can have bittersweet moments, however.  I have written before about the transition from the Main Line to Chester County.  I joke when I say some people act like I moved to Iowa or Minnesota, but it is true.  A lot of people I called friend have made my transition with me.  We no longer see each other as often, but I know they are there.  I am making new friends as well. And I have also, oddly enough, rediscovered some earlier childhood friends that I so enjoyed way back when.   It is pretty cool meeting them again as adults and I am enjoying that as well.

But. (There always is a “but” isn’t there?)

There are some people who haven’t made the life transition.  Not through any disagreement or earth shattering we-are-finished kind of moments, but from the simple and slightly sad evaporating kind of way.  It’s sad, and disappointing and once in a while, hard.

DSC_1713-001I had this one friend I met through our parents.  It was like an instant kinship.  For years we were inseparable. We lived close to each other and she was the girlfriend you connected with every day.  But she is one of those people who for good or bad, fades in and out of people’s lives. I noticed that about her when she was planning her wedding.  After her wedding, she evaporated on me for the first time. That lasted a few years.  There was no fight, there was no explanation. It just was. And it was hard, and it hurt.

Then one day she was back. Just back and we picked up the strings of friendship like no time had elapsed. We shared a lot more together. But I never had a defining answer as to why she disappeared out of my life.  And in that particular lack of friend heart to heart, I knew if it happened again I would probably just be done. Not in a mean way. Just as in this isn’t working for me kind of way.

We did so much together.  We lived around the corner from one and other for many years.  I could literally walk out of my door and be having coffee in her kitchen in less than two minutes.

Then I moved. The irony is she was one of the biggest champions of my moving my life out here to be with my sweet man.  And out of all of my friends I swear she wanted to see me “settled” more so than even my own mother. This is my friend who thought it was fun to just try on wedding dresses even if you had no plans in that direction.

The evaporation this time was over time.  Too busy to return calls, making excuses for why we couldn’t get together.   She is also my friend who I feel has been swallowed by the born again Christian of it all.

All of a sudden there was no time to hang out, but she went to all these bible study and religious based events.  Even road trips to bible conferences for lack of a better description.  She wanted the balance she seemed to get out of religious involvement, so I tried not to judge. Religion filled up her empty spaces.  All of a sudden her hours were filled by all of these new people a lot of us didn’t know and hadn’t met.  Did I think it made her happy?  To this day I am not sure. I am only sure that she was trying to make herself happy, and you can’t fault another human being for that.

The last time we had an actual conversation was last spring.  Before her child’s birthday, which precedes my own birthday.  She was asking me questions about what she should do for the child’s  upcoming birthday and who she was inviting to the party.  It was one of those conversations when you find yourself calming listening and feeling almost not so nice inside.

My issue with this conversation was simple: she and her child and her husband had been part of the last two birthday parties of my child.  She is a person who stores a lot by the manners of others, and yet, although my child didn’t care nor miss birthday parties they had never known had happened, I missed those parties for them.  If that makes sense. That really irritated me so when I got off the phone I thought to myself I needed a little break.  Because other conversations had contained things I didn’t get.   Only after that I never heard from her again.

As time has passed I have made peace for the most part with acceptance that she was just one of those people you meet who has a finite presence in your life and then it’s over.  But once in a while I will see something or hear something and think I would like to tell her and then I remember she isn’t part of my life any more. And that at times is like ripping the scab off an old wound.  And then the feeling passes. And as time passes, it gets easier and easier. In a sense as you get older you just recognize the transient nature of some people. It’s not a good or bad feeling, it is just a sort of bittersweet it-just-is part of life.

DSC_1564I recently saw her in a couple of photos of some party someone else I know attended. For the first time I felt sort of detached looking at the photos.  We had some great times together, but now she has her life and I have mine. The one thing I noticed in the photos is her smile is different.  Her smile used to light her whole being up. It would reach her eyes if that made sense. Now it is just more of a smile for the camera.

I hope she is happy.  I know I am happy. And I know what happy is now. I didn’t really know what happy was before, even if I wasn’t unhappy per se.  I guess more than anything I was less complete if that makes sense.

It’s one of those life puzzles.  You have to be able to grow to be happy, but when you grow you find at times that not everyone makes the same journey with you.  And you also have to learn to more accepting  and forgiving of yourself as a human being to begin to attain adult happiness.

Well this brings another rambling stream of consciousness to a close.  Do I post this? I don’t see why not.  After all, part of being human is being able to talk about things.

Life is a journey.  A journey is an evolution.  Life is also precious.  Don’t waste it.  Find your happy.