Did hyperlocal news site Patch delete a mass amount of stories?
That’s how it appeared when David Rotenstein, a historian based in Georgia and former Patch.com freelancer, contacted iMediaEthics asking about more than a dozen articles he wrote for Patch’s site that were missing.
Last year, before Patch was sold by AOL to Hale Global, Patch shut down “nearly a third of its” sites – around 300. Next, Patch fired “hundreds of employees.”
Links for Rotenstein’s stories were going to a “404” error page, he showed us. So were stories going MIA with all the changes going on at the company?
“It’s a great loss to communities where Patch was the only, albeit brief, local coverage,” Rotenstein wrote to iMediaEthics.
iMediaEthics asked around at Patch and heard back from Warren St. John, the new editor-in-chief of Patch.
St. John, a former New York Times reporter, explained to iMediaEthics that last month Patch was taken “off AOL’s servers” and moved to a different platform.
Story links that go to 404 error pages weren’t unpublished. Instead, he said Patch is just experiencing technical issues. “There are some significant tech hurdles there but we’re working on it,” St. John e-mailed iMediaEthics. “No content has been deleted.”
He explained why users are having tech problems.
“Some older content hasn’t yet been indexed on our new platform – it will be. We’re also experiencing some 404 errors with content that has been indexed. That’s a tech issue and we’re working on it. Most older content seems to have successfully made it over.”
St. John added, “In the end we expect to have not just all the old Patch 2.0 content available but a great deal of Patch Classic content that hasn’t been accessible since May ’13.” Patch Classic refers to “the Patch platform” as of spring 2013. From approximately April/May 2013, until last month, Patch considered itself Patch 2.0, and from last month on is Patch 3.0, St. John said.
St. John said any “users or former editors who get 404s can email links to email@example.com – that may speed restoration of the content.”
Rotenstein previously flagged a conflict of interest at Patch in Decatur, as iMediaEthics wrote. Back in 2011, Patch published an article on the benefits of signing up for an “energy improvement program” written by someone who worked for a company that provides that service. The article didn’t carry an disclosure of that writer’s relationship to the program he recommended in the article until iMediaEthics contacted Patch.
While this may be a genuine technical difficulty, Patch did lose a tremendous amount of multimedia content with the websites’ second redesign.
I’m speaking from experience as a former Patcher in Maryland.
Dozens of videos that I produced — some high quality, others raw — were lost.