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?

tragedy

long roadToday’s post is perhaps in part a rambling stream of consciousness.  Truthfully, I am not sure where this post will go as I start to write. This post began writing itself in my head a few hours ago.

A tragedy in Wayne has made me think of someone I had not thought of in a few years.

What tragedy am I speaking of? The man in Wayne who shot his wife on Sunday afternoon with one of their children in the house.  Then the man took his own life.

Coward.

Main Line Media News: Update: Husband, wife identified in Wayne murder-suicide

Published: Monday, January 13, 2014

By Pete Bannan,
Pbannan@Mainlinemedianews.com

Radnor police are working with family members to help care for the children after an apparent murder suicide that took place on 300 block of South Wayne Avenue in Radnor shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday.

Radnor police were called to the home for the report of shots fired. Two people, Tim Rooney, 49, and Linda Rooney, 48, were found dead from gunshot wounds in a pool house at the rear of the property, according to police.

“It appears to be a domestic situation,” said Radnor Police Supt. William Colarulo.

An 8-year-old was in the main house at the time of the shooting. The couple had two other children, a 15-year-old who is in a boarding school out of state and a 17-year-old daughter.

Their names were Tim and Linda Rooney.  I did not know them.  From what I am reading she was some kind of high level executive with a pharmaceutical company.  

Linda was also a mother of three children, two teenagers, and one child who is considerably younger.  Now these poor kids are orphans and tainted by a tragedy not of their making which is so unfair.

From what Radnor Patch was reporting, Linda Rooney may have not only feared her husband, but apparently the marriage may have been in trouble.

Wayne Murder Victim May Have Feared Husband, Police Say

Posted by   Sam Strike  (Editor) , January 13, 2014 at 06:51 PM

rooneyAs the Radnor Township community grapples with a shocking murder-suicide that took place in a Wayne home on Sunday, Radnor Patch has received comments ranging from concern for the victim’s children to the shock of knowing that a firearm was within blocks of their own children and many at Radnor Middle School.

While Radnor Police have not yet revealed a motive in the killing, they have said that they believe that Timothy Rooney, 49, shot to death his 48-year-old wife, Linda, in the pool house of their home and then shot himself….based on documents that police found it appears the marriage “was in trouble” and that Linda “may have been fearful” of her husband.

I noticed that some people were hard on Radnor Patch Editor Sam Strike for in essence, doing her job and reporting this.  This shows up in comments underneath the story when the news broke, but victims had not yet been identified. It is horrible news, but she did not sensationalize it. She stated what the Radnor Police had reported to the media in general. I know Sam, so this bothers me.  She is not deserving of being castigated for doing her job.  It was also all over the media like lightening.

Murder-Suicide in Pa. Suburbs

By  Wire Reports and  NBC10.com Staff                                  
|  Monday, Jan 13, 2014  |  Updated 3:42 PM EST

tragedyA man shot and killed his wife then shot himself Sunday afternoon, according to Radnor Police.

The incident happened in the guest house of a property at 319 S. Wayne Ave. in Wayne. The victims are identified as 49-year-old Timothy Rooney and his 48-year-old wife Linda Rooney. One of the couple’s three children, an 8-year-old boy, was in a bedroom of the main home.

Police say there were signs of struggle and that a note was left at the scene….The couple’s 17 year-old daughter came home to be with her younger brother. Another sibling is away at boarding school. Police are seeking to make contact with her.

The family, who is originally from Texas, moved to Radnor about a year ago, according to authorities.

This is all so senseless and tragic.  It will undoubtedly get weighed down by another debate on gun control.  I hope not.  It is a weighty issue, but three children just became orphans. And like many other weighty issues in this country it is polarized by politics back and forth on both sides of the issue.

What is rattling around in my brain is a similar crime the spring of 2000.  A woman I knew (and went to Shipley with) was shot by her ex-husband.  And then he turned the gun on himself.

His name was Mark Biddle.  Hers was Melinda Clothier Biddle.  She was a neighbor of mine.  I came home one day for lunch to find my neighborhood in lockdown, with police and media all over the place; helicopters swarming. The press had a field day because of the old Philadelphia names involved…likened it to High Society run amok.

A Violent End For Two With Notable Names Mark Hampton Biddle Fatally Shot His Ex-wife, Melinda Clothier Biddle, At Her Main Line Home. Then He Killed Himself.

By Patrick Kerkstra, Erin Carroll and Chani Katzen, INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF

Posted: June 01, 2000

A divorced couple from the Main Line, members of two of the most prominent families in Philadelphia’s long history, died yesterday in an apparent murder-suicide at the woman’s home in Haverford.

Mark Hampton Biddle, 49, a lawyer whose ancestors include leading financiers and statesmen from the time of the American Revolution, shot his ex-wife, Melinda Clothier Biddle, shortly after 10:30 a.m. at their former family home in the 400 block of West Montgomery Avenue, police said. He then shot himself in the head.

Melinda Biddle, 41, a therapist, was a great-great-granddaughter of Isaac Clothier, one of the founders of Strawbridge & Clothier. The couple had three children.

The pair finalized their divorce in February, according to court records. Mark Biddle recently remarried and moved to St. Davids after selling a large property on Lancaster Avenue where he had lived for about a year.

Mark Biddle was an angry man that Melinda finally divorced.  And it took a long time for her to get to her divorce.  It was very difficult for her to do this. But before she died, she was finally happy. She was blooming. She loved her children, her garden, a career, her friends and neighbors. I remembered seeing her out with some of her female friends from the neighborhood and elsewhere and I was so happy to see how she how happy she was and excited about life again.

A Murder-suicide Leaves Family And Police At A Loss. Questions Abound In Shootings  

By Ralph Vigoda and Patrick Kerkstra, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS

Posted: June 04, 2000

As he did many mornings, Mark Hampton Biddle started Wednesday with a prayer for his new wife, Veruschka, in the bedroom of their Chester County home. The couple, married 31/2 months, then prayed together – another morning ritual – before getting themselves and the children ready for the day…..What Mark Biddle did less than two hours later, police say, was confront his ex-wife, Melinda Clothier Biddle, in the back of the Haverford house they had once shared. He shot her twice, then – seconds later – shot himself in the head, his body crumpling in the driveway.

And then, one Wednesday morning, Mark Biddle parked his car literally across the street from my then driveway and accessed his ex-wife’s home via the R-5 Septa train tracks. He used the train tracks as a path.  He shot his former wife and then himself.  That darn car sat there for days.  I remember I finally called his old law practice and begged them to get someone, anyone to remove that car from our neighborhood.

What is wrong with this country?  Clearly, Mark Biddle was never someone who should have had access to guns anymore than this Tim Rooney. Yet he did.

My one comment on this debate which wages over guns in our country is why there has to be more control over exactly who is allowed to literally bear arms.  No one wants to interfere with an American’s inalienable rights, but part of this process should be a clean bill of mental health. And that should be something that should be periodically revisited as long as an individual owns guns. People kill.  Guns can’t just do it on their own as inanimate objects.

So as I first heard the news reports of this tragedy in Wayne, I was instantly transported back 14 years to the sounds of helicopters swarming like we were on the set of M.A.S.H or something.  I remember the chaos well because this is where I lived, and Melinda was my neighbor.  I have not thought of her in a few years.  Until this happened in Wayne.

I can only imagine how everyone in Wayne feels, and these were people that everyone was undoubtedly just getting to know because the family had only moved into the area within the past couple of years.

Human beings can be so cruel to each other and crimes like this will always be selfish in my mind on the part of the perpetrator.  Ok, so it is human to be ungodly upset but to take another life? And then your own so you don’t have to deal with the consequences of your actions? And to leave the children you brought into this world orphaned? It’s hateful, wrong, tragic, and selfish.

I often think about Melinda’s kids and wonder where their lives have led them.  I remember her son in particular as a little boy with reddish hair at the bus stop.  Melinda’s kids were lucky because her parents were able to step in and take care of her children.  And they are amazing and lovely people.

I guess life’s big lesson here is once again we are reminded of how life can change in a blink of an eye. I wish for a day when senseless violence like this ebbs away from our existences.

Appreciate those who love you and hold you dear.  I know I do.

what does AOL Patch actually cover?

malvern patchChester County is a big place.  Not all areas of Chester County have much media coverage at all.  I am going to zoom into where news matters most to me: the areas of West Chester and Malvern.  I am also going to zoom in on one “media” outlet in particular: AOL Patch, the self-decried innovators of “hyper-local news”. (And FYI there are many all over the country critical of Patch.)

When I first started reading Malvern and West Chester Patch a couple of years ago I was impressed. They were actually living up to AOL Patch’s mission statement or whatever of covering local issues important to residents, in other words they were actually doing hyper-local news coverage. At that time they had a terrific regional editor and hard-working individual site editors.

What has evolved to present day is somewhat disappointing. Quite a few changes in individual site editors and a regional editor who sees big news as things like what the best diaper is. Not that diapers aren’t important to moms everywhere, but are they hyper- local newsworthy?

Malvern and West Chester is a fairly large area to cover with multiple municipalities representing zip codes 19380 and 19355. I want to acknowledge that up front. But it seems to me that news in West Chester and Malvern is not being covered and that is not good.

Many Municipalities out here in these two zip codes do not have any televised meetings even if they could if they wanted to. So we depend on local and hyper-local media for coverage. And I don’t see this gap coverage on Patch. What I see is a lot of fluff and things re-posted from other Patch sites that are not necessarily newsworthy.

What do you think of Malvern and West Chester Patch and the current editor who is covering both sites?

Are you disappointed in Malvern Patch and West Chester Patch?

I am.

There is a lot going on out here, and while no media outlet can cover everything, in my humble opinion they should be covering a fair representation of news in the communities under the “Malvern” and “West Chester” umbrellas.

What was the impetus of this post? Not just one thing, but a culmination of many things.

Take for example a recent article from Abington Patch cross-posted in Malvern Patch on September 16th titled Forty-Six Parishes Under Archdiocese Scrutiny. This article was basically a republication of a Philadelphia Inquirer report.  Furthermore, Patch references affected parishes in Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.  Not one word about CHESTER County, so what was the point of putting this on Malvern Patch?

And then there is the STILL uncorrected spelling error in an obituary headline.  I wrote about that on September 18th I found it so sloppy and disrespectful to whomever the deceased was.

There are many other examples I could cite as disappointing, but I won’t. You all get where I am going.

west chester patch

Do you think Patch has lost its way?

What do you want to see coverage of?

My list includes (but is not limited to) coverage of local meetings and issues facing residents, information on candidates for upcoming elections, real coverage of local businesses, meaningful profiles of residents doing terrific things, and coverage of local sports that is not borrowed or regurgitated from other sources.

It would also be helpful to see our local Patch editor out and about covering some things, because as it stands I do not see where this guy has actually visited our communities. And face it, if you are going to cover us in a hyper-local manner you have to get out and explore. And face it, Chester County has a lot of cool things to cover in addition to local government and other issues which may not be considered so positive.

At the end of the day, I would like to see Patch in Malvern and West Chester to once again cover where we live. They have employees being paid to do this, right?  Why can’t they cover the area like Radnor and Tredyffrin Patch sites do?  And if AOL Patch has changed and will no longer be covering where we live, it would helpful if they just said so.

Also to consider is what is the future of journalism? Once upon a time we thought it might be AOL Patch.

Thanks for listening.

every parent’s nightmare (updated)

missingWhen I heard this news break I was in the car this afternoon, and I immediately thought well there it is:every parent’s nightmare, a missing child.  And that is exactly what is unfolding in Radnor Township.

A missing teen.  Now I have just heard Radnor might be calling another press conference for 9 pm, so I hope it is good news and the girl is found.  She’s young – 13.

And this is some guy who is 20, and who appears to have multiple Facebook pages, along with Twitter and god knows what else.

This is the stuff that makes your heart sink like a stone to your stomach.   I guess there were creepy people out there when I was 13, but maybe because there was no Internet and I had parents who were actively involved in my life (sometimes much to my chagrin), the seemy side of life didn’t touch me. Thank God.

Being a teen can’t be easy today, even if the technology is zippy.  And young teens like this 13 year old missing girl want to be treated like grown-ups but they are still children.

It’s hard to figure out as parents where you draw the line isn’t it?  You want them to be safe, yet you can’t wrap them up and keep the world at bay. And they don’t want to be babied even if they are your babies.

But given the age of this missing girl I am sorry, but I think it is important to keep an eye on the kids, who they are Facebooking, Face timing, tweeting at, texting.  I think part of that has to be limits when it comes to the smart phones and computers.  I think computers should be in a common area.

Talk to your kids.  They might not want to talk to you all of the time, but better to know what is up.  Yes I know, everyone wants to be a friend to their children, but sometimes you just have to parent.

Savanna Marie MacMullett is the name of the missing girl.  I pray she gets home safely.

Makes you wonder what caused her to reach out to someone as screwy as they are saying she ran away with doesn’t it?

As of 9 pm There is a rumor running around she has been found in DC alive and the guy is in jail but I have no formal confirmation.  I hope so.

Police: Radnor Girl Missing

Savanna Marie Macmullett, 13, disappeared from her Radnor home Monday.

BySam Strike  Email the author  2:27 pm

Radnor Teen Goes Missing After Meeting Man Online

Police say Savanna MacMullett, 13, of Radnor participated in online chats with Ashley Hareford, a 20-year-old man from Grottoes, Virginia.

By  David Chang|  Tuesday, Dec 4, 2012  |  Updated 6:10 PM EST

Police are searching for a missing teen girl as well as the man who they believe took her after they met on the Internet.

Police say they spotted Ashley Hareford, 20, of Grottoes, Virginia standing outside the Radnor Township home of 13-year-old Savanna MacMullett on Sunday. Police say he looked suspicious and they stopped him while he was on foot to question him. However, after he was questioned, they let him go because they could not find a reason to hold him in custody.

On Monday police say MacMullet left her home around 4 p.m. and has been missing since then. MacMullet’s father told police his daughter met Hareford online and had conversations with him. Police believe MacMullet is with him.

9:15 PM : my source was correct – Savanna has been found in Washington DC:

Missing Radnor Girl Found in D.C.

Savanna Marie MacMullet went missing Monday afternoon.

BySam Strike Email the author

9:08 pm

13-year-old Garrett Hill resident Savanna Marie MacMullet, who went missing Monday afternoon, was found by U.S. Marshals in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

With her was Ashley Ryan Hareford, 20, who Radnor Police said met MacMullet online and traveled to Pennsylvania from Virginia.

Radnor Township received an anonymous tip that the pair were arriving on a Mega Bus in Washington, D.C. around 7 p.m. Tuesday. Hareford was taken into custody without incident, said Lt. Christopher Flanagan.

MacMullet is being evaluated by medical staff and will be interviewed by police. She may return home tonight.

Hug your kids, people.  That is all I have to say.

UPDATE DECEMBER 5th 2012

I have decided to update this post yet again.  Why?  Because of something I read in Main Line Media News where the father of this girl named Thomas MacMullett is quoted.  I find it all disturbing.

First of all, the father apparently ALSO spoke to this kid outside his home.  Did he know the creepster was there for his kid?  If he did, why didn’t he call the police THEN?

But what really got to me was reading where the father remarks that Savanna’s older sister took off with a 28-year-old guy when she was 14? I am sorry, but does that make the proverbial  hair on the back anyone else’s neck go up ?  Am I missing something where 13 and 14 year old girls routinely take off with 20 and 28-year-old guys respectively or is this a GIANT red flag that something might be wrong at home?

I am glad this girl is home safely.  It could have ended quite differently.  But does the story end there with that guy being arrested or was this really a girl running away with the wrong person because something isn’t right at home?

I am trying not to be all judgey here, but you read the article and decide for yourselves:

UPDATE: Radnor girl found by U.S. Marshals in Washington, D.C.

Published: Wednesday, December 05, 2012

By ROSE QUINN
rquinn@journalregister.com
@rquinndelco

RADNOR — A missing 13-year-old township girl was found in Washington, D.C., traveling on an inexpensive Megabus with a Virginia man authorities believe she met online, possibly Facebook.

Shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday, a team of township and county detectives were on their way to escort Savanna MacMullett back to Delaware County…The teen, who was last seen when she left her home at 4 p.m. on Monday, was described to be in good condition but would undergo a medical evaluation making the return trip and reuniting with her family…..With MacMullett’s whereabouts no longer a mystery, the focus now turns to the relationship with Hareford….According to authorities, Savanna MacMullett left her home in the Garrett Hill section of the township at 4 p.m. on Monday and was believed to be in the company of Hareford. The teen left the house after telling her grandmother she was going to the library.

Flanagan said Hareford was questioned by police outside MacMullet’s house Sunday night, when an officer on patrol thought he looked suspicious. Thomas MacMullett, Savanna’s father, said he, too, spoke to Hareford outside his home….Thomas MacMullett said earlier Tuesday that he was “very afraid” for his daughter’s safety.

“Just the fact that she is not home,” he said.

According to her father, Savanna created a Facebook account exclusively for her and Hareford.

Thomas MacMullett said he found Hareford’s interest in a 13-year-old girl “disgusting.”…Thomas MacMullett mentioned an incident involving Savanna’s older sister, who was 14 when she went off with a 28-year-old man, to New Jersey. At the time, he said Savanna was angry with her sister for her behavior

 

 

bad form.

I will preface this post with the fact that I honestly do appreciate the jobs that those in the public sector do.

Firemen, policemen, nurses, teachers, EMTs, etc.  I know many, many amazing people in these job categories.   But there has been this photo making its rounds on the web that just irritates me.

Check it out and then I will tell you how it makes me feel as someone in the quote end quote private sector.

Have you read it now?

You know how this makes ME feel?  Like I am the enemy.  I also live within my means, did not accept bailout money, do not live in a multi-million dollar home, did not crash the markets, and so on and so forth.  This simple statement smacks of class warfare, and that is unfair.

Getting a bit more controversial, many of these public service employees have fabulous health and benefit plans.   Yes there are hiring freezes and things like that because guess what?  The economy is in the toilet and almost everyone is feeling a pinch. Millions of people are out of work.

Maybe this sector of people would get more in this country if say, more municipalities and hospital systems were willing to trim upper management fat, and give back.  Check out this link for an interesting list of salaries from Main Line Today Magazine which says for example that an assistant township manager in Lower Merion makes $122,921 and a township manager makes $193,324 …and it is going up and I will get to that.

Like it or not, and average workers do not identify with upper level management in the public service area, but you want to know where your increases go if you are from that employment sector?  To management level employees. The article in Main Line Today was from 2011 and it lets you get a peek as to a whole lot of salaries.

The other truism is this:  reality is someone will always be doing better or earning more than you.  It’s life.

And when it comes to benefits, well I don’t know coming from the private sector how much sympathy I have.  I used to work for an employer who did not offer benefits or access to benefits.  So for a few years now, I have been self-pay on my benefits.  Including self-pay through breast cancer.  So to me, everything is relative, and if I had employer or taxpayer-funded benefits that were for the most part paid for, I would not object to chipping in.  Again, because my perspective is different and I do this myself for myself.  (which of course opens the whole conversation about Obamacare, and sorry, I haven’t seen the benefits, and don’t know that I ever will.)

But let me remind all of you, just because I have these opinions, it doesn’t mean I don’t respect public service employees.  I just think that sometimes people need to get a little bit more realistic about life.

Now, as to respect.  Which to me seems to be an underlying theme in the photo of that statement above.

Respect is earned.  I have met and know some fabulous firemen (volunteers), EMTs, police, and so on.  I have also met some who leave a lot to be desired.  For example, as a   photographer of public events I have been what only can be described as menaced a few times by police personnel who have no clue what no expectation of privacy in a public space  actually is.   The most memorable occurred at a music and food festival a few years ago.

There I was with friends, taking photos (and there were a few dozen cameras around me at the time, some with those super long and fat “paparazzi” lenses), and speaking to the person who happened to be the driving force behind this  event.  I was not even using a flash.  I was on a public street, at a public event, taking photos.

All of a sudden out of nowhere is this police officer.  Literally so close to me, that it could be described as invading my personal space. He tried to take my camera. As in made a grab to yank it off my neck. As in touch me.  He singled me out and ordered me to stop taking photos. Mind you all around me, camera after camera was still snapping away.

I stepped back, away from him and asked why and reminded him this was a public event on a public street.  I also believe I asked why he was not attempting to confiscate any other cameras.  I did not get an answer other than telling me he could do this.  At that point, someone I knew, a lawyer, stepped in and he disappeared.

That event really upset me.  It ruined the event, I felt bullied and harassed and I know I had done nothing wrong.  Some would have filed a complaint, I chose not to.  I figured maybe everyone is entitled to a bad day and working crowd control at a huge summer event couldn’t be much fun.

But a few years later, when I see things like that slogan above, this is something I think about.

And on the 4th of July, something occurred involving a public service employee that I find abhorrent and unacceptable.  It involves a Paoli first responder. Who apparently gave people the finger during a 4th of July parade. The huge Welcome America parade.

So how is this o.k.?  How is this something the public at large is supposed to respect?

When I saw this on Main Line Media News’ website I was truthfully shocked.

Paoli Fire Company has issued a statement about this July 4th incident on July 5th:

July 5, 2012
Dear Citizen,
On July 4th, 2012 Paoli Fire Company proudly participated in the 2012 Wawa Welcome America Independence Day Parade in Philadelphia, PA. Afterwards, the fire company was made aware that a member of the company made an obscene hand gesture while riding in the rear of the engine. Not only was this gesture apparent to spectators, but was also captured on the live television broadcast. First and foremost, the Paoli Fire Company would like to express a profound and sincere apology to the parade organizers, event sponsors, 6abc and the City of Philadelphia for this inappropriate and disrespectful act. Moreover, Paoli Fire Company apologizes to all of the citizens who witnessed the gesture; both live and on the televised broadcast.
Paoli Fire Company does not condone such behavior, nor does it believe that these actions should be tolerated. We expect the highest level of professionalism and respect from all of our members in all situations, especially when interacting with the public. As such, the member in question has been indefinitely suspended pending further disciplinary review, and we are currently reviewing our internal policies related to conduct and training.
The fire company, comprised almost exclusively of volunteers from Chester County, prides itself on providing highly skilled fire, rescue and emergency medical services to the community of Paoli and its surrounding areas. We recognize the importance of a strong and supportive relationship with the citizens that we serve and other first responder organizations that work with us. This trust is not easily earned, but we will do all that is necessary to demonstrate the momentary lapse in judgment by an individual member does not reflect the principles and operating standards of the organization.
Respectfully,
John Beatty                              Ira Dutter
   President                                      Chief
Check out what Bob Byrne wrote in Tredyffrin-Easttown Patch:

Paoli Fire Co.Tries to Put Out a PR WildfireA one-finger gesture seen ’round the world  puts the Paoli Fire Company in the middle of a public relations firestorm.By Bob Byrne July 7, 2012

The volunteer firefighter, riding in a rear-facing seat in the back of a Paoli Fire engine cab, flipped the TV camera – and the world- the bird in a live broadcast originally aired on Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV/6ABC and then rebroadcast around the globe on CNN. The video now also lives in infamy and (most likely) perpetuity on the internet.

The gesture and the way the fire company first responded touched off a flurry of bad publicity and angry comments on websites across the internet.

Also on TE Patch: FingerGate: How should Paoli Fire Company Handle the Scandal? Patch readers weigh in.

At first the Paoli Fire Company said viewers did not actually see what they thought they saw. 

So now, let’s talk about upper level management who eat all the monies that should perhaps be more evenly disbursed in a municipality.  Your taxes pay for this.  Whether local, state, or federal, taxes pay for this.
In Lower Merion Township where I used to live a controversy is in full bloom.  Douglas Cleland, the Township Manager is renegotiating his contract.
Cleland’s contract if approved, as per Main Line Media News, means that his salary will end up around $207,000 per year.  If I recall prior conversations about this salary, this means Cleland makes more than the Mayor of The City of Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter, more than high-ranking members of Congress, and more than United States Supreme Court Justices. And for what?  In the scheme of things, some are speculating that his package would come out over $240 and up to $300K and over is you count all the perks and deferred compensation and so on.
As a former resident of Lower Merion I can tell you, this is not a man who is user-friendly or accessible to residents.  He in fact controls the majority of the commissioners more than they control him. Through his dictums you have a hard time reaching other management level employees, like the township solicitor – and the truth of the matter is, usually township managers and so one are accessible to the public.  Of course, it doesn’t help that the President of the Board of Commissioners Liz Rogan used to be his employee before a former commissioner made it possible for her to go into politics.  And the Vice President of the Board in Lower Merion?  Paul A. McElhaney? His brother is the head of the workers’ association. (It’s not a true union, nor is membership mandatory.)
This package will get passed, and so if people think things are wacky in places like West Vincent, they also should check out Lower Merion. Lower Merion in a manner which makes people understandably hate local governments is vetting and voting on this in the dead of summer.
However, in all fairness, when discussing public sector employees, you need to look at the cream of the crop.  Some of whom are in Radnor Township.  Newly promoted Lt. Andy Block and Lt. Chris Flanagan are two examples.   These two men deserve the accolades they receive from their home township and community at large.
Another public sector employee who is the cream of the crop is Radnor Township’s Manager Bob Zienkowski.  I am a huge fan of this man.  Not only has he taken a township and turned it around after a huge scandal involving the former manager Dave Bashore could have tarnished Radnor forever, but he is the real deal when it comes to public sector employees.
Recently, instead of asking for more, he voluntarily gave back.   Lower Merion Commissioner Jenny Brown wrote to constituents recently and summed up what Zienkowski has done:

Last week, the Manager for our neighboring municipality, Radnor Township, showed the type of leadership that we should be able to expect from a first class township manager.  According to a Radnor Township Commissioner, the Radnor Township Manager recently went to his Board of Commissioners and offered to reduce his overall compensation.  Among the things he offered (and that have been incorporated into his new contract):

1.         Radnor’s Manager has agreed to no increase in salary for as long as he works for the Township (his salary, which is significantly less than Lower Merion’s manager’s salary, will remain at its 2010 level);

2.         Radnor’s Manager has agreed to pay for his own life insurance (previously funded by taxpayer dollars);

3.         Radnor’s Manager has agreed to personally pay for (the Township will not have to pay for) his attendance costs at any conferences or training;

4.         Radnor’s Manager has agreed to pay 10% of his family health insurance premium in 2013, 11% in 2014, and 12% in 2015.

5.         Radnor’s Manager will contribute 2% of his gross salary towards OPEB (other post-employment benefits)

In addition, I note that while Radnor’s manager may participate in his township’s deferred compensation plan, it is only with his own money, there are no employer contributions (Lower Merion’s manager gets an 8%, legally questionable, taxpayer-funded contribution).  As well, unlike Lower Merion, the Radnor manager is required to live in the township he manages.

In Lower Merion, not only is the manager paid excessively more than any other township manager, he has demanded a raise for next year and expects the township taxpayers to pay for all sorts of perks, including the nearly unrestricted personal use of his township-owned car and he wants the taxpayers to continue to pay for all of the gas he puts in his car – can you imagine not feeling any “pain at the pump”!?!  There are other inappropriate perks that I don’t have room to detail in this email but will discuss at the meeting.

That is leadership.  That is a public servant in the most positive and proactive sense of the word.  I am sorry, but there is something to be said about a man who gets where a lot of us are who don’t have government or public sector jobs.
I felt it was important to show good form along with the “bad form” I am writing about in this post.  Radnor’s Manager is not taking the fat for himself, he is sacrificing when he doesn’t have to.  He is leading by example.
Here is the article from Main Line Media News and Philadelphia Inquirer about Lower Merion’s manager issue.  While not a Chester County issue or topic, it is well worth reading because it is just so outrageous.  But then again, this is a municipal manager who kept his job after a failed bid years ago of eminent domain for private gain.
There are many fine individuals who work in Lower Merion Township, don’t misunderstand me.  But I think Lower Merion needs different leadership.  This is a well-heeled municipality, yes, but you would never know to drive through it.  Check out the condition of their public parks, or even the roads.

In Lower Merion, a dispute over town manager’s pay comes to a head this week

By Marie McCullough  Inquirer Staff Writer

In a slow economy, how much is too much to pay the manager of an affluent township of 60,000 people on Philadelphia’s Main Line?

That question, debated for months in Lower Merion, will come to a head this week.

Republican Commissioner Jenny Brown, and several others on the township board, say a $275,000 pay package for Township Manager Douglas Cleland is “excessive.”…

Others on the Democratically controlled board counter that Cleland, manager since 2002 and a 28-year township employee, has saved the township hundreds of thousands of dollars with efficiencies, has protected and capitalized on a stellar AAA credit rating, and has negotiated fiscally sound contracts with employee unions.

Cleland, who has been working without a contract since December, has a base salary of $202,989 a year. Benefits bring his total compensation to $275,000, commissioners said.

He is among the best-paid municipal administrators in the region and, as Brown likes to point out, takes home more than the Pennsylvania governor or Philadelphia mayor….

Cleland “knows Pennsylvania law. He’s been able to refinance our debt, saving us money,” said Commissioner C. Brian McGuire, a Democrat. “We are one of only four townships in the country with a AAA credit rating. He’s done an excellent job, and we are lucky to have him.”

Cleland, who did not respond to an e-mail request for comment Sunday….the meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. at the Township Administration Building, 75 E. Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore.

Lower Merion manager’s salary to rise to $207K in proposed contract

Published: Monday, July 09, 2012

By Cheryl Allison callison@mainlinemedianews.com

Lower Merion Township has now posted terms of a proposed new two-year contractfor its manager, Douglas Cleland. ….He would receive a 2-percent pay hike, to $207,049, effective Jan. 1, 2013, and extending until the end of the contract period on Jan. 6, 2014.

He would also continue to receive longevity increases the same as other township employees, based on his base salary for 2012.
In addition, according to the terms, Cleland would continue to receive deferred compensation of 8 percent, slightly higher than most other township management employees.

So when we hear about situations like firefighters getting caught on camera giving people the finger on 4th of July, or township managers up for fat contracts which are utterly outrageous in this economy, it is easy to understand why emotions might run high when people discuss “public servants.” (I hate that phrase, incidentally.)

 

But when we hear about the negative things, we should also remember the positive.

 

At the end of the day however, we are experiencing an economy that probably hasn’t been felt as keenly since the Great Depression.  That means that all of us have to give a little.

 

How do you feel about the public service people in your community?  I believe they do deserve our respect, but I do not feel one size fits all.  I also think other communities should pay attention what goes on in their neighboring municipalities.

 

I for one hate to say it, but am very glad I am out of Lower Merion Township.  Lower Merion in my childhood was such a beautiful place to live.  Now it is well, tarnished.  Radnor on the other hand, is really an example of what can happen when government and residents work together for a common good as opposed to pandering to special interests.

father’s day

Father’s Day is Sunday.  I thought I would take a moment to remember two great fathers I have known in my lifetime.  My late  father Peter and my late brother in law, Keith.

We lost my father to prostate cancer November 13, 2005 and Keith to peritoneal mesothelioma on December 22, 2010.

Both were awesome human beings and fathers.

I miss both of these men.

My late father, Peter, shared with me his love for life, and many other things including the importance of being involved in one’s community.  He taught me how to garden, and to an extent how to cook.  He also had a deep love and appreciation of the arts. Growing up, he always had time for his girls.  He wasn’t superhuman, was just a man, but he was my father.

My late brother-in-law, Keith, was one of the brightest people and most astute businessmen that I ever met.  But Keith wasn’t just that, he was an amazing father and husband to my sister and her children.  He  always had time even to just check in with all of his friends and family.   Seeing him with his children, was nothing short of magic and pure joy.  Healso had this calm way about him that was lovely.

I am only sorry that both of these awesome men aren’t here today to see my own sweet man as a father.  Because he is amazing in his own right, and his relationship with my stepson in training is very, very special and cool.

So remember the fathers you have known in your lifetimes this weekend.

Patch had this great thing this week, where they invited people to share remembrances about their fathers.  I would like to pay that forward and invite you, my readers, to do the same thing.  Unlike Patch, this isn’t a contest, just an invitation to share if you so choose.

Happy Father’s Day.

up in smoke: historic bloomfield in villanova burns

I believe I was in 9th or 10th grade the last time there was a fire at the historic Radnor Township mansion known as Bloomfield.    Bloomfield was built at the turn of the 20th century in the Radnor Township portion of Villanova on the bones of a Victorian Estate built for  Albert Eugene Gallatin in the 1880’s.  Bloomfield was built by Horace Trumbauer and her gardens were designed by the Olmstead brothers.

This place in my opinion was like Radnor’s La Ronda and it was a marvel it had survived this long without being torn down or bastardized.  It looked like a French Chateau with fabulous gardens and a graceful, grand presence.  It was being rented by a Canadian family at the time of the fire – which began mid-afternoon yesterday.

I went today to the site and when I got out of my car there were some news vans at the estate entrance on S. Ithan and the air smelled heavily of smoke.  As I went to take my photos I also glanced up the street shows the gaping, ravaged land where private school Agnes Irwin had been reportedly blasting this week.

There were many gapers and gawkers on the driveway and the road when I arrived and I wandered around with a local reporter from Radnor Patch  (Sam Strike) taking photos.  We got up the driveway to in front of the fencing now surrounding the site where we were met by a Radnor police officer who was none too happy to see us and asked us to leave.  He also threatened to take my camera.  He was just doing his job.

So we left, and we got some good photos, and as we wandered back down the driveway, there were yet more gawkers, so I would not be surprised if they did not soon post a police car at the foot of the driveway.

People are driving up and down S. Ithan hoping for a glance of the scene, and I found others back around Trianon Lane, where you can see glimpses of the gardens, house, and pool from behind wrought iron fencing.

NBC10 is reporting that investigators are trying to find a cause.  The state police fire investigator is now reported to be in charge of the investigation.  I was told that around 175 volunteer fire fighters responded from several companies from all over the area to fight this fire.  (This as a related aside is why everyone should support their local first responders and on the Main Line and in Chester County they are a predominantly volunteer force.)  First responders came from  Radnor, Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Gladwyne, Penn Wynne, King Of Prussia, Manoa and Newtown Square.

They say the slate roof made it hard for firefighters to break into the roof and battle the fire.  I am also told some firefighters may have suffered some issues due to the heat, etc of the fire.  God bless them for what they did, because truthfully, I know many people near the mansion who had fears of the fire jumping via the trees surrounding the property.   With wind and fire, you just never know how it will travel.

The mansion was most recently owned by Jerald Batoff, son of a former Democratic fundraiser heavyweight, William “Bill” Batoff.   I looked at Delaware County property records yesterday and Batoff had only owned it a few years.  I am told by neighbors that although it had renters, the mansion had been for sale.  Apparently a movie soon to be released called “Safe” was partially filmed there in 2010 – the mansion was a film double for New York City’s Gracie Mansion.

I think this is an incredibly sad loss if this mansion ends up not being rebuilt (I am sure residents will now be nervous that the mansion will be razed and the land sold for some sort of development because that would be a natural thought process after a fire of such devastation), and it is but for the grace of God that people weren’t killed because of this fire.

Here’s the coverage:

Radnor Patch: History Goes Up in Flames at Radnor Mansion:Bloomfield was home to historic architecture.  By Bob Byrne and Sam Strike  Email the authors  5:51 am

When fire tore through the mansion named Bloomfield on South Ithan Avenue on Wednesday, it not only repeated history, but also destroyed it.

Watching with a crowd of neighbors as Bloomfield burned, real estate agent and home builder Jeff Bader lamented what he was seeing.

“It’s a shame. They don’t build them like that anymore,” Bader said about the home with 19 bedrooms, a 25 by 35-foot ballroom and six-car garage.

“You can’t replicate the workmanship and design,” Bader told Patch as firefighters moved into the third hour of fighting the flames.

Historic Main Line mansion falls to fire

By Bonnie L. Cook and Robert Moran  Inquirer Staff Writers

A historic Main Line mansion in Radnor Township was gutted by a fire  Wednesday afternoon.

An automatic alarm was triggered shortly before 2:30 p.m., and by the time  firefighters arrived, flames could be seen shooting through the roof of the  three-story structure on the estate known as Bloomfield, said Township Fire  Marshal Don Wood.

A man and woman who were renting the property got out safely with their two  dogs and a rabbit in a cage, Wood said. Three firefighters suffered minor  injuries.

The fire, which started in an area between the main house and an adjoining  garage, was declared under control before 6 p.m., but fire crews were still  putting out hot spots well into the night, Wood said.

About 10 companies and 175 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was the  equivalent of four alarms, Wood said.

As they battled the towering flames, the mansion was veiled in white smoke  that would occasionally clear enough to reveal the charred remains….The estate was originally the site of the Victorian home of Albert Eugene  Gallatin, which was built around 1885.

George McFadden Jr., a cotton tycoon, acquired the estate, and in the early  1920s he hired famed Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to remake the main  residence ….It became known as Bloomfield, the name of a branch of the family, the  historical society reported in a 1988 newsletter article.

McFadden died when he was electrocuted by a steam cabinet in a bathroom, the  article said, but the estate remained in the family until 1984.

In late 2010, the 5.87-acre estate served as a double for Gracie Mansion, the  official residence of New York City’s mayor, for the Jason Statham action movie Safe…Bloomfield, listed for sale last year at $6.9 million, had 19 bedrooms and  nine full baths in its 22,000-plus square feet of living space, officials  said.

County records show the property is owned by Jerald Batoff, the son of the  late William Batoff, a prominent Democratic fund-raiser.

NBC10: No Cause Yet for Main Line Mansion Fire/State authorities take over investigation into massive Villanova mansion fire

By   Dan Stamm and  Rosemary Connors
|  Thursday, Apr 5, 2012  |  Updated 2:56 PM EDT

On Thursday all that was left of a once a sprawling Main Line Mansion was the charred remains and stone walls.

Just a day earlier flames broke out at the historic Horace Trumbauer-designed mansion at 200 S Ithan Avenue in Villanova, Pa….On Thursday the State Police and state fire officials took over the investigation into the cause of the multi-alarm blaze at the 22,000-plus-square-foot home as authorities remained quiet as to what could have caused the massive blaze.

Neighbors told NBC10 that renters were apparently inside when the fire started…A few firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze.

Delaware County assessed the property for nearly $2.25 million in August 2006 but the historic home, built more than 100 years ago, could be worth more.

The property is valued at nearly $5 million on Zillow.com….According to the home’s property record, the three-story, single-family home was built in 1905 and includes 19 bedrooms, 12.5 bathrooms, nine fireplaces, a full basement and a pool.

Fire struck the house once before. In 1978, flames consumed a large portion of the upper level.

Jerald Batoff bought the home in 2001, according to Delaware County records. The home was up for sale in the Fall for $6.9 million, a real estate source tells NBC10. It doesn’t appear it ever sold.