I liked writing for Somerville Patch. I really did. My various editors supported my ideas, allowed me a relatively relaxed work schedule, and helped me fine-tune the high school sports reporting I anticipate doing for the next few years of my career.
They also paid me, even as a student intern.
So when my editor told me AOL Patch was killing its freelance contracts at the end of 2011, I was sad. The steadiest outlet for my work had suddenly dried up. I feared my skills would grow dull without an editor and the scrutiny of a well-read site.
At the time, I understood that just like every other online news source, Patch didn’t make enough money to justify its paying structure. Changes had to happen, and cutting freelance contracts was a way to minimize overhead.
As much as I hated getting downsized, I accepted that it was a budgetary decision. I didn’t believe it represented a philosophical shift by the company.
I was wrong.
Not only did Patch end its freelance contracts, it also has seemingly ended any interest in high-quality content.
No more timely, relevant reporting or well-written, clever copy. Instead it’s “Pizza playoffs,” “Best of” lists, and “easy, quick-hitting, cookie-cutter copy.” I can hear my journalism professors screaming all the way from Commonwealth Avenue.
My editor had told me this would happen and, so I of course knew it was coming. But I had no idea how bad Patch would become.