Unfortunately, the ax has come down at Patch locations across the country today. Our own Bob Byrne at TE Patch was on the AOL call this morning along with hundreds of others including Sam Strike at Radnor Patch as they were told today would be their last day. From what I understand, the layoffs were focused mainly around editorial staffing and heard estimates of between two-thirds and one-half the Patch workforce lost their jobs. This is the second major round of layoffs in six months – last August 400 Patch employees lost their jobs.
AOL sold a major stake in its hyperlocal news outlet to Hale Global on January 15th with AOL retaining a minority state. Initially at the the time of the announcement, Hale Global had assured the Patch employees they would continue to have jobs. However, two weeks later, there was an abrupt change in plans.
Hearing you are laid off with hundreds of others on a conference call is not anyway to treat employees. Patch employees were told to call in this morning so that they could hear the following:
Hi everyone, it’s [Patch COO] Leigh Zarelli Lewis. Patch is being restructured in connection with the creation of the joint venture with Hale Global. Hale Global has decided which Patch employees will receive an offer of employment to move forward in accordance with their vision for Patch and which will not. Unfortunately, your role has been eliminated and you will no longer have a role at Patch and today will be your last day of employment with the company. …Thank you again and best of luck.
The above is a transcript, listen at https://soundcloud.com/jim-romenesko/sounds-from-wednesday-morning
The call went on to say that, effected employees would receive their yearly AOl bonuses, a payout for accrued vacation time and two months’ severance. By taking the severance package, the employees are agreeing not to sue AOL. Employees were told that their Patch email address would work until 5 PM today and the use of technology (phones, computers) until Friday and that their severance package will arrive within 48 hours.
Is this any way to treat people … gather up hundreds of employees on a massive phone call to tell them “today’s your last day of work”. Wow.
Bob Byrne is one of the good guys and AOL was lucky to have this hardworking, dedicated employee. In my opinion, they lost a real gem! Best wishes for the future Bob and may this only be a momentary bump in the road!
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Over the years, I have found Patch to be very useful and informative on local issues. Bob Byrne and Sam Strike have done a consistently great job.
Unfortunately, the market does not appear able to support this approach to reporting. I’ve noticed a lot of regional and national stories creeping in, and I have not been impressed.
Patch appears to have lost its raison d’etre, and it’s a shame.
Bob was such a great person and reporter. I learned so much from him. I wish him all the best because the way Patch treated him was truly unfair. I applied for a job at Patch before and when I got my degree and never got a response from this organization even though I had written over 400 news stories for them. I was disappointed that I never got an interview but now I am glad that they never called me. I moved into a different career because finding journalism jobs is tough in today’s job market. I truly think that they did me a favor! I went back to school and I now work with library and corporate archives and I am happy with my choice. God bless you Bob and thank you Pattye for providing this blog,