On Wednesday, January 29, the new majority-owner of hyper-local news site Patch.com laid off all but one of its San Diego County reporter-editors, remaining editor Michelle Mowad confirmed.
The layoffs include journalist Khari Johnson, whose knowledgeable coverage of Imperial Beach and La Mesa appeared to have triggered the U-T San Diego to follow his stories at least a few times. Johnson was also honored last year as one of their “best of the best” Patch employees.
Santee editor Stephen Bartholow, Oceanside editor Gina Tenorio, and Encinitas editor Deanne Goodman also appear to have been laid off. Their links have disappeared from the website.
The local layoffs are part of staff reductions at Patch sites throughout the nation.
Patch.com was founded in December 2008 and was acquired by AOL the following year. The website has more than 900 locales and focuses on hyperlocal news, which has been touted as the news profit model of the future. Though beloved by its readers, it has never been profitable, and experts have guessed it cost AOL more than $200 million to operate.
AOL sold a majority stake in Patch.com to Hale Global, an equity fund, in mid-January, but retained a minority share.
The layoffs of an unknown number of Patch employees came throughout the day Wednesday, and many of the employees had their telephones shut down and their profiles wiped off Patch's pages. Patch had previously laid off 400 employees in August 2013, according to Techcrunch.com.
Imperial Beach residents bemoaned the loss of Johnson, whose coverage of local issues was something they'd never seen before. IB resident Miriam Iosupovici called Johnson "a terrific asset to our community." Patch poster Marcus Boyd noted that "With the lack of transparency in our local government — as it is — Khari will not only be sorely missed by Patch, but also anyone who really cares about IB, with the exception of a one or two of our 'trusted' elected officials — who will be very glad to stop answering so many questions by a real reporter."