Aol’s Patch hyperlocal news initiative has seen rapid growth, but that expansion has also brought several issues along with it. Silicon Valley Insider compiled a detailed list of those issues, along with responses from Patch communications director Janine Iamunno.
Anti-Patch allegations have included: a lack of community knowledge by local reporters and editors; plagiarizing; overworked and underpaid editors who are also forced to volunteer at community events; and shying away from controversial stories.
Some of Iamunno’s responses to Silicon Alley Insider:
Like any journalism organization, we won’t tolerate it (plagiarism). We are still going to be the largest hirer of journalists, and we’re really proud of the teams we’ve created and the work they’re doing. Bad calls will sometimes be made — we’re all human — but we’re doing everything we can to hold our journalists to the strictest of editorial standards. We want to serve our communities well, our editorial team well, and journalism well. We take that seriously.
We just had a Give 5 day, and have gotten great feedback from our teams in the field. We encourage employees to participate — it’s good for their communities, and people seem to have a good time making a difference — but it’s not mandatory and the dates are flexible. Doing positive things in our communities is part of our core mission, and we’ve gotten a tremendous internal response so far.
We’re a startup, with startup hours and startup enthusiasm. We want Patch employees to be happy and set out from day one to accomplish that. From the beginning, we’ve had a great deal of communication with our employees — it’s an open dialogue. As we evolve as a company, we’ll learn more and more about what works and what doesn’t, and we’ll continue to take steps to try to do what’s best for our employees, (such as) adding an additional editor in regions, offering our editors freelance budgets to help share the work, increased communications with the field, and weekend relief, among many other things we already had in place and have since put in place.