Skip to main content

In Brooklyn, hyperlocal news gets a boost with Patch (but we need much more)

The nature of the local new media is changing and, for Brooklyn, there may be some promise in Patch, the AOL-funded enterprise that's hiring do-it-all editors (without offices) in communities around the country--800 so far, with a goal of 1000.

The editors are assisted by freelancers and other contributors and, in Brooklyn at least, form a bit of a network. Right now there's a Prospect Heights Patch, Park Slope Patch, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Patch, Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill Patch, and Bed-Stuy Patch.

What, no Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg? Maybe those communities were seen as already "taken" by the Brooklyn Heights Blog and culture blogs like Free Williamsburg. (Disclosure: I've done one freelance piece for Patch.)

Not just news

Patch, self-described as "your local source for news, events, business listings, and discussion," got some semi-skeptical treatment in a New York Times article January 17--an article that ignored Patch in New York but pointed out that the company is focusing on relatively affluent suburban towns that can generate advertising.

Indeed, Patch strikes me as optimized for small communities that don't have a newspaper to cover key local institutions like the school board and mayor's office. (See, for example, the comment by Ann O. at the bottom of this CJR post.)

Brooklyn lacks such cohesion--even the community boards stretch beyond a single community--so the match is inexact.

And Patch is still feeling its way. I'm not sure what an article on "Rent is Too Damn High" candidate Jimmy McMillan shilling for a New Jersey car dealership was doing on the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Patch. Then again, Patch did a nice job covering the memorial for former District Leader Bill Saunders--and no other news outlet bothered.

The business plan

Patch is a business plan as much as a journalism effort, so marketing to local businesses and compiling listings does have a geographic component. And while Brooklyn has a lot of blogs, most are not serious businesses.

Consultant Mel Taylor has been following the competition between Patch and local weeklies. He observed:
Intellectual theorizing and to-do list creation from the incumbents only provides Patch more time to marshal small armies of sellers to get in front of every mom and pop business in sight.
Taylor added:
Patch is now building local advertiser directories, using good old fashioned face-to-face client calls. They build a relationship with small business in order to sell them something at a later date. Patch is serious about the revenue piece of hyper-local’s puzzle. They’re well aware that without revenue and profit, there’s no serious chance of consistent and self-sustaining, local news coverage.
After all, the New York Times's Fort Greene-Clinton Hill blog, The Local, while doing some worthy work, lost its Times staffer and has become mainly an outpost of the CUNY Journalism School, which means the staff waxes and wanes.

Competition with the weeklies

The local Patch sites are competing not with the dailies or blogs but mainly with the Murdoch-owned weekly Brooklyn Paper (updated daily online) and Courier-Life chains.

And the Bed-Stuy Patch offers some competition to the established Our Time Press, which has a significant institutional history in the neighborhood but a web site that, though improved, still needs work.

The new Patch sites lack the institutional memory, editorial page, and archive that the newspapers can offer.

(That's mainly to their detriment, but not necessarily. Patch is starting from scratch on Atlantic Yards, rather than swerving somewhat, like the Brooklyn Paper. In 2008, the Brooklyn Paper thought it was big news that Forest City Ratner lied about Frank Gehry being born in Brooklyn. Now more significant lies regarding Marty Markowitz on EB-5 and KPMG on the AY timetable get ignored.)

The cookie-cutter Patch web site is better than the lame Courier-Life site but not as snappy as the Brooklyn Paper. Indeed, as Brooklyn Paper founder Ed Weintrob has pointed out, ever-hyping editor Gersh Kuntzman has made the publication personal and entertaining, using new tools like video.

The five reporters--Park Slope Patch, Bed-Stuy Patch, Carroll Gardens Patch, Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch, Prospect Heights Patch--exceed the number of reporters (though not editorial staffers) at the Brooklyn Paper.

Patch has hired real reporters, if newish ones. Stephen Brown, formerly of the Brooklyn Paper, is running the Fort Greene site. (He was tweaked, appropriately, by former boss Kuntzman for not naming his former paper, which is a significant farm team. And Brown just won a big award for his work at the Brooklyn Paper--and Kuntzman won a smaller award.)

Covering Brooklyn?

Patch reporters are supposed to cover fine-grained neighborhood news--and crank out a lot each day, often thin stuff, as the Times suggested. That's fine for a small town or suburb.

In Brooklyn, however, such quotas suggest in-depth coverage will be a challenge. Until and unless a network like Patch decides it needs a few staffers to cover larger Brooklyn issues--and develops an editorial voice with columnists and editorials, rather than just submissions--it won't be competing journalistically with the local weeklies. And those local weeklies don't do that much in-depth reporting themselves.

But it's not Patch's goal to be a great newspaper. And, without printing costs, the business plan seems pretty lean.

With Patch, Brooklyn should be somewhat better served journalistically. But it will still be underserved, with many neighborhoods and broad issues/institutions getting short shrift.

So I'll repeat Brooklyn College professor Paul Moses's observation about Brooklyn's place in the local mediascape: Nowhere in the country do so many people get so little local coverage.


  1. Hi Norman,
    What a great story, so informative and detailed. Thanks for writing it.
    I wanted to bring to your attention South Brooklyn Post,, a hyper-local online news magazine covering Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and points nearby.
    We're a independent news magazine, launched just 2 weeks before Carroll Gardens Patch. We're dedicated to in-depth reporting and professional, magazine-style news journalism, and we're developing a roster of professional contributors.
    I'm the editor, and worked as an investigative reporter for 15 years at dailies and a weekly newspaper. South brooklyn Post has a small staff of professionals and we are looking to build a local advertising network and provide a quality community service by doing in-depth journalism on important topics.
    Anyway. Thanks again for this great story, and please check out South Brooklyn Post!
    All best,

    Lisa M. Collins


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in November 2017, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won't be so cheap.


Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in 2017: no new towers, unfilled affordable units, Islanders prepare to leave, project timetable fuzzy

My 2018 preview.

It was another wait-and-see year for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, with one big twist--the beginning of a slow goodbye for the New York Islanders--but continued delays for towers, a lost (mostly) 421-a subsidy for condos, and new skepticism about unfilled not-so-affordable housing units.

So ongoing questions linger regarding the project's pace, affordability, and even future ownership.

In my 2017 preview, I predicted--not exactly going out on a limb--that two and likely three more towers would open, though it would be unclear how fast they'd lease up and sell.

Indeed, we've learned that the middle-income below-market units at 461 Dean (which opened in 2016) and 535 Carlton have leased very slowly, while it's too soon to assess progress for commensurate units at 38 Sixth. (At 535 Carlton and 38 Sixth, middle-income units make up half the "100% affordable" buildings.) Meanwhile, many apartments are up for rent at the 550 Vanderbilt condo buildin…