Thursday, January 30, 2014

Oconee County Patch Web Site Control Shifted To Metropolitan Atlanta

Part Of Restructuring

Editorial control of the Oconee Patch web site, moved in August to Athens, has shifted again, this time to metropolitan Atlanta.

As part of a major restructuring of Patch, about two-thirds of the editorial staff members nationally have lost their jobs, according to media blogger Jim Romenesko, who has a record of breaking inside stories about Patch.

Included among those whose jobs were eliminated was Rebecca McCarthy, editor of both the Oconee and Athens Patch sites.

Image Produced By McCarthy Link

While both web sites still list McCarthy as editor, clicking on her name tonight leads to a page saying the link is broken.

The top two identical stories on the two sites also identify Scott Bernarde as editor.

Bernarde, also listed as editor of Gwinnett Patch, confirmed in an email exchange with me this afternoon that he is in charge of the two sites.

Hale Global Venture

Romenesko and Forbes reported on Jan. 15 that AOL had agreed to sell Patch to a joint venture controlled by Hale Global, an investment company that specializes in turnarounds. AOL will retain only a minority stake.

The restructuring that resulted in the terminations yesterday and today is the consequence of that transaction.

AOL let about 400 employees go last August and others in the months that followed.

Oconee County Patch Editor Stephanie Gross, who had built the site from shortly after its launch in December of 2010, left the company on Oct. 15.

Gross now works as a public relations specialist in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

McCarthy Built Athens Site

McCarthy, a veteran journalist who had worked in Atlanta, had been given at least some responsibility for the Oconee site in August.

The Oconee site, created as part of the national roll-out of similar sites, originally focused almost exclusively on local content.

More recently it has included more regional and national content.

McCarthy was given responsibility for the Oconee site but no additional resources, and her primary focus was on the larger market of Athens, her original site.

Blogging To Be Upgraded

A short version of this blog runs on Oconee Patch, with a link at the bottom to the full blog.

Bernarde told me in an email message this afternoon that this will continue.

“There are no changes to blogging on Patch,” he said. “In fact, we should expect the process to be easier and more streamlined very soon.”

(I chose not to post this story on Patch.)

Other Changes Underway

The local media online market is in the state of flux.

Cox Enterprises, which owns six radio stations locally and media properties around the state, including the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, launched last year, calling itself “Athens and Northeast Georgia’s Online News Source.”

Much of the local news is created by Tim Bryant of Cox-owned News Talk 1340 WGAU radio.

The Athens Banner-Herald earlier this month announced that users will have to being paying for at least some of the content on its site.

That site contained a report of the changes at Patch that was posted about noon today.

The alternate weekly Flagpole also has beefed up its web site, with frequent news postings.

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