Sunday, May 1, 2011

Salem Patch heading down the toilet?

I've been very clear that I believe that Salem Patch has provided a very valuable service since they came to down. You can argue that they've provided better local news coverage than either local print paper. They've been on top of City Council happenings, School Committee meetings, and events like the Washington Square Fire. How do they do this? A staff of freelancers under the direction of Local Editor Aubry Bracco. They are up against full time reporters, and often beat them to press with important news. I'd argue that they might be a little more impartial than our friends publishing from Beverly, where the publisher is rumored to be best buds with the mayor of Salem.

But might that all change? This past week, editor Aubry Bracco published this. Salem Patch will be making room for bloggers on the site. That sounds OK, right? Why not add some more voices? The question, though, is whether or not the goal is to "add" voices, or if it's to replace the paid freelancers providing solid news coverage with unpaid bloggers. (No, Aubry hasn't hit me up to write a blog yet. Hint to Aubry, my email address is to the right ----->.) I hope that this isn't the truth, but signs point to this being the new direction. It would be unfortunate, as the news value, which is where Salem Patch has a ton of value as far as I'm concerned, would be lost. Why do I think this is the plan? A few weeks ago I read this article. Arianna Huffington was intending to go against the Huffington Post model and add more PAID full-time reporters, and reduce freelance spend. Sounded great to me. More news! The North Shore would have to warrant at least one, if not more, full time reporter. (I've enjoyed John Zorabedian's work, even if he can't figure out who I am. My wife says I have a twitter crush on him. No, he doesn't know I'm writing this post.)

Unfortunately, I think that this has changed, and from the sound of it the "free content" Huffington Post model may be coming to Patch. Read this article. Then read this one.  The second one sounds more spot on to me. Less freelancers, more free writers. More keeping revenues at corporate. Sounds like a duplication of the HuffPo model, where most content doesn't cost AOL a dime. My favorite sentence was this, "It’s very important that Patch bloggers are not paid — in order to maintain their independence, according to New Lenox Patch editor Michael Sewall." LOL! If the bloggers aren't assigned any stories, and write what they want, how is their independence in question? Nice justification for millionaires asking for free work.

My big problem is that Patch has a ton of value as a news source. I'd hate to see them gut it, but it sounds like where they're heading, especially with slashed freelance budgets. Too bad, Patch. You coulda been great, at least in Salem. Please keep providing strong news content, and I won't even complain that you haven't asked me to write. (BTW, how vanilla will these blogs be?)


  1. There's a couple arguments in favor of free bloggers. One is that it adds voices to the site from community members, and folks who aren't necessarily professional writers but have a point of view.

    Another is that it will help local bloggers drive more traffic to their own blogs and help build the local blog network.

    Obviously, I feel keeping paid freelancers is important.

    Barring a complete scrapping of paid writers (I don't see that happening), I would see this as a positive.

  2. If you're so desperate to blog for Patch why malign it before the blogs even start appearing? I am looking forward to adding my blog to Patch. It's an opportunity to share my point of view, improve my writing, and, gain readership of my blog.

  3. If that's really what you got from this I don't think I can help you. Would I blog for patch? I guess, but only if it didn't involve compromising on my format and content. My point is simply that if this is a way to replace real news content, as many think, that Patch becomes a lot less valuable to me. I'll go back to checking the snooze first, and may skip Patch, instead of vice versa.

    I should also point out that Huffington was just sued by their bloggers when they sold to AOL. I guess Arianna is extremely confident that the suit is meritless. She's probably right, but if she's not this is a big risk.

  4. If Patch adds local blogs to the site, it's good. More commentary and editorial can only enrich the site. If the content comes at the expense of paid reporting, not so much. Right now they are doing a pretty good job overall, so I hope it doesn't get screwed up.

  5. Be careful of the Patch reporter who tells people he/she works for the Salem News and refuses to give a name

  6. What a bitchy comment I left, I apologize.


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