A Changing of the West Hollywood Online Media Guard*

To the casual observer, West Hollywood might seem like a perfect fit for the Patch model. The area’s affluent residents consistently support local businesses-events and are acutely interested in “hyper-local” coverage of their community.

But there’s also a general weariness of the media outsider, something the AOL venture has painfully confronted. Compounding matters is the fact that West Hollywood Patch has so far had four different local editors. When “guest editor” James Mills most recently stepped down, he was replaced by the unusual tandem of Beverly Hills Patch LE Mary Cunningham and Patch local area associate editor Brantley Watson.

Now comes a new version of Patch, so to speak – WEHOville. Launched over the weekend, the site has a crisper design and, based on the editorial-sales staff hires by West Hollywood-residing publisher Henry Scott, some fluid short-term financing. But already, there have been hiccups.

Contentious reader comments seem to be disappearing with a little too much frequency, including at least one left in response to a Hillel Aron-contributed piece about former United Methodist Church pastor Scott Imler.* That particular article also boasts a misleading, sensational headline: “The Church vs. the Pothead Pastor.”

Nowhere in the feature does anyone refer to Imler by that derogatory term. Even if that was the case, it’s the kind of term that should not be repeated in a headline by a brand new outlet seeking to establish its fair and balanced credentials.

Not exactly an auspicious start. Especially when you add an the op ed from Scott that fails to properly highlight the fact that the city of West Hollywood is known to waive permit fees for pretty much any event  expected to bring in larger revenues.

In his welcome message, Scott notes that he is “especially thankful to any of you who let me know about errors that we news gatherers inevitably make.” Well, Mr. Scott, in FishbowlLA’s humble opinion, that Imler profile piece headline is such a misstep.

* Update – 10/01/12: WEHOville.com publisher Scott contacted us after publication to make clear that the site has no problem with allowing readers the opportunity to  voice and share their reactions. “We’ve published some mighty contentious comments from [WeHo News editor] Ryan Gierach and from at least one of his aliases (based on our tracking of his IP address),” he explained via email. “We declined to publish another comment from Ryan that was submitted under a fake name, inviting him to resubmit it under his name for publication. So, the fact is that contentious reader comments are front and center at WEHOville.com. We just want people to own what they say.”

Previously on FishbowlLA:
WeHo News Publisher Susses Out Some New Competition

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.