The list of duties for Patch editors in this Romenesko post is pretty much the job description for every local news site owner I know, at least the ones making a living at it.
When I’ve written about the number of hours I put into my business critics have said I don’t have a business model, my business isn’t “sustainable,” and so on.
Of course, this is coming from people who probably don’t want to work that hard, preferring the good old corporatism days of journalism with secure 9-5 jobs, two weeks paid vacation and dental coverage. Those days are disappearing, but the knock against hyperlocal start ups is that they’re not staffed as bodaciously as the newsrooms they may or may not replace.
To the second point, my response remains: Newspapers started small, cheap and with different standards. No newspaper started with staffs of dozens and a raft of Pulitzers. To hold an online-only start up to those standards is just plain daft.
To the issue of hard work, yes it’s hard work to start your own business, and I figure the critics of the online start ups have never dealt much with small business owners.
I deal with them every day, and for any of them that started their own businesses, they will readily tell you of the 100-hour work weeks, the weeks of just barely getting by and the impossibly long to-do lists. The hardships and sacrifices just go with the territory of starting your own business.
But here’s the thing about the work load for Patch editors: They’re not owners. They are expected to do all of the things they would have to do if they owned their own web sites, but merely in service of building wealth for AOL shareholders. Sure, work hard and keep your job is a nice benefit, and as a former corporate employee I think employees have an ethical obligation to help build shareholder value. That’s what they’re paid to do.
I’ve also been critical of corporate employees who aren’t willing to put in a little extra effort to help a project succeed.
However, if what we’re hearing is true about the Patch workload, I can only ask: Why are you doing it?
Patch editors should know that what they’re being asked to do on salary they could do for themselves far more successfully and with some chance of building a valuable business for themselves and their families.
I’m not writing this to wish Patch ill. I am not one to hope for anyone’s failure. I’m writing this for the sake of the seemingly overburdened Patch editors, and asking, “Why not just start your own local news site?”
Jump on in, the water’s fine.