The Washington Post

Patch calendar story: The final chapter (we promise)

As reported previously in this space, AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong founded the huge local news enterprise Patch because of alleged news deficiencies in his town. More specifically, deficient calendars.

Hyperlocal junkies know the spiel by heart. Whenever he’s asked why he sunk millions into the venture, Armstrong riffs on the primitive state of calendaring in the Riverside-Greenwich area of Connecticut. People had to drive to the bagel store, he says, to find out what was really happening around town.

He’s been forceful in disseminating this story. A New Yorker profile of Armstrong went so far as to state that community newspaper Greenwich Time “lacked” a calendar as recently as 2007. In fact, that paper has had an online calendar for at least a decade.

This week, Armstrong said that the New Yorker had merely paraphrased what he was trying to say, which is simply that Greenwich Time had a lame calendar.

That’s not what the New Yorker says. Here’s a note from the fact-checker of the Armstrong piece: “Well, I guess the answer here is that he did state ‘point-blank’ to Ken [Auletta] and to me that Greenwich Time lacked a calendar. He meant the print version.”

Greenwich Time Managing Editor Albert Yuravich says that the print edition runs a calendar every day, and has for “years.”

With that correction promulgated, let’s move on to the next point: Why was Armstrong fixated on the print version of the Greenwich Time? Wasn’t he concerned mainly with the online space? Bizarre.

The Patch calendar problem is fast becoming the most pressing media issue of our time. Vargas, Fox News v. Media Matters, newspaper survival — they’re all pipsqueaks next to Patch calendar. Consider that Patch is growing into one of the largest ”newsrooms” in the country. That it’s bundled with the Huffington Post and other savvy, modern media properties. That it’s positioning itself to play an active role in covering the 2012 presidential race.

What if the whole thing is sitting on top of a flimsy premise?

Whatever the case with Patch, at least now we know the truth about Greenwich Time, a paper that really needs an “s” at the end. When asked about Armstrong’s lashings, David McCumber, editorial director of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group, responded, “We’re too busy covering the news to worry about that.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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