Former Patch editor says wall between editorial & advertising was too high

Columbia Journalism Review
Sean Roach reflects on his stint as editor of Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow Patch. The 60-hour weeks were invigorating, he says, even if advertising was a frustration. Rather than feeling muscled by the folks in shiny suits, he wishes they’d asked him for more ideas: “It seemed I could control every aspect of my site’s being, but making it sustainable was out of my grasp.”

In many small-town publications there is a thin wall between advertising and editorial. At my previous job, with a twice-weekly newspaper, the wall literally had a doorway that connected the two departments. At Patch, the dividing wall between editorial and advertising seemed so high at times that it was impossible to know where we stood in relation to those on the other side.

At the end of his tenure, a bit frazzled by fleeting content initiatives, Roach found himself gathering archival photos from the Tarrytown Press-Record and marveling at “how little difference there was between what I kept seeing on the front page of the old Tarrytown Press-Record for each week back in the day, and what would be on the front page of a solid Patch site in 2011.” (The Press-Record ceased to exist in 1946.)

“There is a formula for local news, and it works,” Roach writes. “If done right, in a thorough manner, a news site can captivate a community — it can bring its audience online, it can digitize a town.”

I’ve contacted Patch for comment and will update when I hear back.

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  • Reykjavik

    That must be a first. Usually the church-state separation from print publications isn’t as pronounced in digital-only companies, which is a good thing. Smart people can guard against pollution of editorial content, but all hands are needed to think about new products, revenue sources, etc. If Patch had too pronounced a separation, perhaps it was because they had too many traditional publishing types. I’d be floored if this Chinese wall was the product of digital natives.