In these times of journalistic layoffs and media conglomerate belt-tightening, the rapid, ongoing Southern California expansion of community news hub venture Patch.com seems almost surreal. Yesterday, after some last-minute technical hiccups, the AOL seed-funded enterprise turned on the newest of its area websites, South Pasadena Patch, the same day the L.A. Press Club announced that San Francisco-based Patch west coast editorial director Marcia Parker (pictured) will be flying down to address the organization’s annual meeting on Thursday, October 14th.
When a new Patch launches, one of the first orders of business for readers is to click on the biography page of the site’s local editor. In the case of South Pasadena Patch, the new hire is Sonia Narang. After receiving a Master’s in journalism from UC Berkeley, the California native honed her skills as an online video producer for PBS’ Frontline, NBC Nightly News, MSNBC.com and others.
Meanwhile, at Patch’s main home page, a click on California reveals just over three dozen “Coming Soon” geographical locations including North Hollywood-Toluca Lake, Eagle Rock, Westwood-Century City, Altadena and La Canada Flintridge. This burgeoning family of Greater L.A. Patch websites is overseen by regional editors Patrick Lee, Sara Catania and Richard Core.
Lee was quick to respond via his Twitter feed after the L.A. Weekly published a September 30th piece that pondered rhetorically if the new kid in town was the “Walmart of local news.” He noted that article writer Tibby Rothman had incorrectly listed him as “Pat Lee” and later called out the publication for a sloppy sidebar by Dennis Romero, which accused West Hollywood Patch of August 2010 plagiarism but got the name of the freelance reporter in question wrong. Bottom line: If everything plays out in Patch’s favor, this could be the biggest thing to hit L.A. community news coverage since Huell Howser arrived in 1981 from Tennessee to mine California Gold.[Full disclosure: Prior to joining FBLA, the author interviewed with Lee for a local L.A. editor position and has contributed a pair of freelance entertainment articles to Studio City Patch, which is run by a long-time friend and colleague, Mike Szymanski.]