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Patch, We Hardly Knew Ya

In the movie “Moneyball,” Boston Red Sox owner John Henry in speaking to Billy Beane, tells the Oakland A’s general manager about his new approach of choosing players, “I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall…it always gets bloody.”

I always thought that line fit perfectly with the short-lived experiment that was Patch.

At its height, there were about 1,000 people at Patch who were charged to change the way local news was delivered to residents. No longer did readers have to wait a week to find out about last night’s board of education meeting. Within minutes readers could get a reason as to why the fire department just went screaming up the street.

While Patch as we knew it may cease to exist, its impact will be felt on other media for years to come.

Was it perfect? No, of course not. But what experiment is?

There was no handbook to follow and the editorial team, at least on Long Island, really made it up as we went along. And when we finally did get a handbook, we longed to double-down and go back to doing it our way.

While many in the world of journalism mocked us, they clearly choose to ignore some of the great work done by Patch editors on Long Island and elsewhere.

Before the days of Chris Christie’s staff causing traffic jams at the GW, it was a Patch editor who caught New Jersey’s governor taking a taxpayer-funded helicopter to his son’s baseball game. The result was an apology from Christie and a check to the Garden State to cover the cost of the helicopter ride.

With 90 percent of Long Island dark following Hurricane Sandy, Patch sites across Nassau and Suffolk were continually updated. Traffic to our sites and Facebook pages exploded, despite the lack of power. For many, we became a lifeboat for information about where to get a hot meal, clothing or governmental help.

Then there was Newtown.

A Connecticut community like many on Long Island that had a normal December day shattered by an unthinkable tragedy. While national reporters descended on a place they had not heard of until that morning, the team of Patch editors on the ground reported news and info about a place they knew quite well, and perhaps may have known some of those killed.

Despite having to deal with the heartbreak their community was now dealing with, Patch editors stayed professional and did their jobs.

Now, there may be some epitaphs written about Patch. But unless those writers worked in the trenches with a wonderful group of editors, and an even better group of people, they really have no clue what we faced and how we made it work for four years.


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