This week, West Hollywood Patch announced that Marla Schevker, a graduate journalism student at the University of Southern California, is the newest editor of the community news site.
With the announcement, Schevker, who is also editor for Hollywood Patch and Echo Park-Silverlake Patch, becomes the latest in a revolving door of editors at the struggling news site, which has seen its entire freelance budget eliminated since the site’s founding in mid-2010 and no less than six different leaders at the helm.
WeHo Patch, once the dominant media vehicle covering West Hollywood alongside WeHo News, is one of the hundreds of AOL-owned local sites dotted throughout the U.S., originally formed to give readers “hyperlocal” news that daily and weekly newspapers sometimes don’t cover.
Since AOL acquired Patch in 2009, it has been under fire for editorial lapses, an inability to secure advertisers and moving away from producing journalism into listings and commerce.
Schevker’s hiring follows AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong’s Aug. 16 announcement that 40 percent of the Patch workforce would lose their jobs (about 480 people). Twenty percent of Patch sites will partner with other outlets and 20 percent will be consolidated or completely closed. As Patch has fired editors and closed entire city sites, it has also consolidated others and directed local editors to manage multiple sites.
Schevker, a West Hollywood resident, most recently worked at the Beverly Hills Weekly and Beverly Hills Courier. She has an undergraduate degree in newspaper journalism from California State University, Northridge.
According to sources close to Patch, the West Hollywood site launched with a roughly $2,000 monthly freelance budget in July 2010. That budget was cut to $1,200 by March 2011, then $400 in January 2012 and $250 in July 2012. Currently, the West Hollywood Patch has no freelance budget.
Patch was founded in 2007, but took on a higher profile in 2009 when it was acquired by AOL and quickly expanded into other cities across the country.
West Hollywood Patch’s first editor, Nancy Rodriguez, served from July 2010 to March 2011 before accepting a job at Telemundo.
Editor Danielle Jacoby transferred over from the Agoura Hills Patch and served as West Hollywood editor from March 2011 to April 2012, before she accepted a job at TMZ.
James Mills, who frequently reports for WEHOville, was West Hollywood Patch’s third editor. He freelanced for the site for 18 months before serving as editor from April 2012 to September 2012. He was then laid off in the first of a series of budget cuts.
From October 2012 to January 2013, Marie Cunningham did double duty as the WeHo Patch and Beverly Hills Patch editor. From January 2013 to April 2013, Lindsey Baguio also was responsible for two sites, WeHo and Hollywood.
Since May, when a redesign of all Patch sites launched, there have been a number of revolving editors, none other than Schevker with any background with the city of West Hollywood.
Sources close to Patch say WeHo Patch was once one of the top five most-visited Patch sites in Southern California, until budget cuts were made. Patch has operated roughly 70 sites in Southern California, with around 40 in Greater Los Angeles.
Overall, the California sites, along with Georgia sites, have consistently ranked among the lowest of the 900 Patch sites nationwide in readership, according to sources close to Patch.
Editor Mike Szymanksi, who runs the Studio City Patch, is one of the many editors who will lose his job no later than Oct. 15. Studio City Patch has been hailed as one of the most popular Southern California Patch sites.
Recently coming to Szymanksi’s defense was Susan McMartin, who has been a regular weekly columnist for Studio City Patch for several years and has chronicled her ups and downs as a single mom.
In an Aug. 26 post titled “I’m Leaving Studio City Patch,” published on the Patch site, McMartin wrote:
“Even when they stopped paying columnists to write I stayed. Even in recent months since the site has been taken over, the look has slowly changed, no one gets paid for their columns, anyone can blog and trying to find past columns, photos or videos is impossible … I stayed. I stayed because of my love, loyalty and gratitude for Studio City Mom, my readers and my friend and editor, Mike Szymanski.
“But, with the news of Mike being fired for no reason other than they can find someone else who will do it for almost no money … that’s when I say, enough.
“They can hire a ‘body’ to be the new editor but what they lose in letting Mike go is a man who put his heart and soul into Studio City Patch. Who made it the most popular of all the Patch sites.”
McMartin’s post was deleted shortly after it was posted, but you can find it here.
According to a wiki of closed and consolidated Patch sites, created by Michelle Ferrier, associate dean at Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication, the following California Patch sites have, or will be, closed: Studio City, Altadena, Pasadena, Baldwin Park, El Cerrito, Encinitas, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos-Seal Beach, Poway, Ramona, South Gate-Lynwood, Martinez and Oceanside-Camp Pendleton.