A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

This Patchwork No Longer Serves Its Communities

The New York Times said in a 16 Dec 2013 article that The Patch is on its way out. That's not news to readers in Matawan and Aberdeen, where the service started with considerable promise but soon became an advertisement-ridden website filled with public service announcements, human interest features, and little news of local interest or import.

Tonight's Top News starts with job opportunities at Sleepy's, the Aberdeen Registrar's Office's new expanded hours, a local high school's art show win, and the latest home sales. Oh, and Lifestyle offers to teach you how to make buttermilk-battered fried chicken. And don't forget the big lottery ad: $2 million is only a scratch away.

The local editor who started The Matawan-Aberdeen Patch left the online newspaper a while ago and her replacement had no local roots and served at least two sites. Matawan-Aberdeen is now managed by a regional editor whose umbrella covers half the county. Articles these days are derived from news releases from law enforcement, school districts and municipalities.

The Patch had the worthy goal of filling the gap in local news coverage that staff-starved newspapers like the Asbury Park Press and Newark Star-Ledger were unable to produce. But The Patch produced few if any hard-hitting articles that might challenge our local governments, likely fearing that if they bite the hands that feed them, they will lose access to local officials. And what little true journalism was on display in those early years is virtually gone.

All in all, the coverage provided by The Patch doesn't protect its communities through what is recognized as the power of the Fifth Estate. Its patchwork of websites has been a placeholder for whatever comes next. What came before -- in print or online - has let us down.


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