AOL’s problems with Patch are, unfortunately, starting to take root locally.
AOL, by some estimates, has invested over $300 million in their hyper-local news venture. But from the company’s very founding critics argued the business model was flawed. They were right. Last week the company announced layoffs and the closure or consolidation of hundreds of their local editions.
On Friday both the Roswell and Alpharetta/Milton editions showed new editors on the masthead. The name Anthony Duignan-Cabrera now displays in that spot, apparently replacing Christine Foster and Bob Pepalis. The user profiles of Foster and Pepalis are no longer on Patch.
Duignan-Cabrera is Patch’s Vice President and Editorial Director out of their main New York office. His name also appears as the editor of the Loganville-Grayson Patch and nearly thirty other Patches across the country.
The company hasn’t announced changes to local editions but my bet is on consolidation. Rumors online indicate that some editors were given severance incentives to stay on through October. Perhaps this is when readers will notice big changes.
You can certainly blame higher-ups at AOL for Patch’s demise. But that blame shouldn’t be pointed at the local editors. They were all professional, college-educated journalists. Most had deep resumes reporting local news. They also worked insanely long hours to bring you the news.
Bob Pepalis worked for years at the Appen Newspapers prior to joining Patch. In discussing events with him offline I found his knowledge to be vast. He had a solid grasp of deep, complicated stories and the factors that moved them. And it showed in his reporting. He was fair and thorough.
I appreciated the conversation on the Alpharetta Patch. The discussions were lively and insightful. They were also a very healthy thing for the community. You’re not likely to see this anymore on Patch and that’s a shame.
So we’ll continue to observe the slow, spiraling collapse of AOL’s Patch over the coming months. We can poke fun at their executives. What were they thinkin’? But in the end citizens are likely to lose a good source of very local news and conversation. That’s never a good thing.