January 29, 2014
Hank Kalet shared this shot of Patch merch on Facebook. Photo by Hank Kalet.

Jim Romenesko | Business Insider

Two years ago, Hank Kalet found out he no longer worked for Patch at a New Jersey coffee shop with his supervisor and someone from HR. Today, he learned that hundreds more Patch employees were laid off through a former editor on Facebook.

Not too long ago, Kalet joined the Patch alumni group, a closed page on Facebook. That page currently has 452 members, former Patch editor Anthony Leone told Poynter via phone.

“And I wouldn’t be surprised if that grows by the end of the day,” he said.

The group is one of former and current Patch employees, and it reflects a culture that was formed early on.

“I’ve worked at newspapers, magazines and news websites before, but there’s just never that type of connection,” Leone said. “We’re really a Patch family.”

The recording Jim Romenesko posted Wednesday morning replays a message Patch employees have heard again and again in the last few years, in one form or another.

“Unfortunately, your role has been eliminated and you will no longer have a role at Patch and today will be your last day with the company.”

Romenesko reported Wednesday that up to two-thirds of Patch employees may lose their jobs. On Wednesday, Nicholas Carlson with Business Insider reported that Patch sites will also shrink dramatically.

A source familiar with Hale’s plans for Patch says the network will shrink to 250 sites from nearly 1,000. In Connecticut, for example, Patch’s staff has been reduced from ~100 to ~5. The This source says the 750 or so zombie sites will aggregate regional news and try to partner with local bloggers.

Kalet, who worked at Patch for 18 months, was laid off in May of 2012. At the time, he was a regional editor for Patch sites in central New Jersey.

“I was in what probably was the first restructuring,” he told Poynter in a phone interview.

Shortly after Kalet started at Patch, he attended a three day conference in New York for new Patch employees.

“They made a point of saying that you’re all in this together,” he said, “you’re a part of something special.”

Kalet still believes the goals of Patch were something special, and they’re all still in it together, too. The group, he says, is like a family. Some people are bitter. Some aren’t. But they’re still connected.

Leone sees that, too. He who was an editor at the Haverford-Havertown, Penn., Patch and started in 2010. He left in 2012 for a magazine job, he said. On Wednesday, he shared the news of the latest layoffs on the alumni page, which he also reported on his blog.

People who worked for Patch worked from home, on their own, but they had each other to reach out to, Leone said. That network has held up through the rounds of layoffs.

“We’re still helping each other out,” he said. “Most of the people there have never met face to face at all.”

Deanne Goodman got the call today. After three and a half years, she no longer works for Patch. Goodman, who was the editor of the Carlsbad and Encinitas, Calif., Patch sites, was already a member of the alumni group. And from them, she’s hearing support and getting job leads. The group also kept current employees up to date with news about what was happening with the company.

“They kept us all on the pulse of everything,” Goodman said in a phone interview with Poynter.

It’s hard to see a job you were passionate about change directions without you, she said, but with the Patch network, she feels supported and positive. There’s life after Patch, she said. Kalet and Leone are examples of that.

In some ways, Kalet’s still doing the things he did at Patch — covering local news. He also teaches journalism at Rutgers University School of Communications and Informations. One class is called “The Hyperlocal Newsroom.”

Leone, who’s now raising his family in Florida and working on his blog, keeps track of Patch news.

“It really is amazing the closeness that we’ve had,” he said about the continuing culture and the Facebook page. “We’ve all just sort of come there together.”

Correction: Hank Kalet was laid off in May 2012, not October 2010, which was the date he started working for Patch.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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