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Annapolis Capital: Patch? Patch Who? What Patch?

| May 18, 2011, 11:09 AM | 19 Comments

Why can’t we all just get along? We are a country that was founded on change. Without change, we would not be where we are today. But yes, change can be uncomfortable and most people don’t like it because it forces them to leave their comfort zone.

Old Versus New

It is difficult to find an industry more resistant to change than the printed media.  While there are a few outlets that seem to embrace the change and the decided shift to digital technology. Earlier this year, The Baltimore Sun was criticized for ignoring a Baltimore County news story that was initially reported on the Towson Patch. Well, this time around it seems like it is our very own Capital Gazette that is not giving credit where credit is due–and maybe even falling down on the job.

The Paving Scam

On April 14, 2011, the Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch reported on a significant paving scam which took place in Davidsonville. The victim in this case contacted Patch (which should be noted is not a well staffed, well paid newsroom with tons of resources) because The Capital had no interest in reporting a scam that potentially could have cost her more than $60,000.  According to the victim, The Capital said they were not interested since it was spring and paving scams were commonplace. But this was not the “paint it black and call it sealed for $100” scam, this was a $60,000 scam.

Armed with this information and photos supplied by the victim, Mitchelle Stephenson, Editor of the Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch, did some background work and provided the Anne Arundel County police with her findings on the suspect who was wanted in both North and South Carolina on similar charges. Subsequently, an Annapolis woman and a Lothian man contacted Patch with similar stories which was provided to police. This information, and police investigation ultimately led to the issuance of three arrest warrants and a press release from the Anne Arundel County Police warning residents of the scam, which we reported here on May 12th.

All of a sudden, on May 13th, The Capital was interested in this story and ran a front page article with the details without giving any credit to Patch.  Despite that the police,  specifically Det. Ottey in the Southern District and Det. Niebuhr with the Maryland Dept of Labor and Licensing, credited Patch with helping detectives crack this case, attribution went unmentioned.

Hardly seems fair does it?


Perhaps The Capital has a right to their animosity towards the Patch sites. After all, three local Patch Editors (Edgewater-Davidsonville, Severna Park, and Greater Annapolis) are former Capital employees and many of the Capital’s freelancers are also freelancing for the Patch sites. In fact, the Patch network boast some pretty impressive credentials for journalism in print, online, and broadcast.

Wake Up Calls

While they may sit in their newsroom amidst all of their resources chuckling at the “buffoonery” of the new media, including Patch, Eye On Annapolis and other hyper local media sites the fact remains that these entities are here to stay and are interested in working with The Capital, not against them. But only if they play nice in return.

The first wake up call for The Capital should have been when Paul Foer, who ran the now-defunct Annapolis Capital Punishment blog, broke the story that ended the chances for Zina Pierre to become the mayor of Annapolis.  Another wake up call might have been when there was a significant hazardous materials spill on Route 50 just before Christmas which Eye On Annapolis broke. The Capital did not cover it until Tuesday since they do not staff the newsroom on Sundays. Or maybe they should have taken notice when Eye On Annapolis researched and discovered the questionable financial background of one of the proposed partners of the Market House.

Scratching Each Other’s Backs, Not Eyeballs

In an email sent to the Editor and News Editor of The Capital, Mitchelle Stephenson said:

Although Edgewater Patch has only been live for five months, whenever there has been a story that The Capital has investigated/broken, and we’ve subsequently followed up on, we have given credit to the original source (and linked-back). Two instances I can think of off the top of my head include the AA Animal Control adoption rate investigation (Scott’s story) and a Saul Friedman item that I linked back to Earl’s story.

In any event, I just wanted to express my disappointment that The Capital couldn’t follow those same journalistic standards in crediting Edgewater Patch about the paving scammer.

The Capital only offered a weak response:

I’m not sure our staff was conscious of Patch’s scoop. The first alert was from the police.

Certainly a newspaper that claims to be the “oldest in the nation” monitors other local news sources. I know we do. I am sure Patch does. I know the Baltimore Sun does as well as the Washington Post and the television network affiliates. Considering that the story was handed to The Capital by the victim and they took a pass, and then was reported in detail by the Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch, this seems like a cop out.

I will echo Mitchelle’s concerns. On the few times that The Capital has had to reference Eye On Annapolis, a link is never provided. A recent article by Eric Hartley was dedicated to the “new media” including Patch and Eye On Annapolis and did not offer a link. Seems kind of strange since both are 100% online sources. In fact, my profile for commenting on Hometown Annapolis (The Capital’s online version) seems to have been tweaked to not allow me to post links in a comment. In the world of blogs, facebook, twitter, and new media, it is good manners to share the love and link back.

What The Capital may not realize is that today’s media consumer likes to receive their information in any number of ways. The Capital is no longer the sole source of news in the County. Some people like to check out the Annapolis Sound for some of their in depth analysis of political issues. Others like the hyper hyper local style of the Patch sites. Still others appreciate the broader reach of Eye On Annapolis since we reach out to facebook (35,000 fans), twitter (4,700 followers), newsletters (2,000 subscribers) and the site itself (almost 60,000 people/month). There is nothing wrong with that. I assume that some staffers at The Capital buy Starbucks, some buy Dunkin’ Donuts, and others will go to Zü Coffee–does that make any of those coffee shops any less of a coffee shop?

By linking back and forth to each other, we strengthen each other. At Eye On Annapolis, we aggregate news, offer opinion, highlight events, etc. For more detailed information, should our readers want it, we provide links to the source. It might be nice if The Capital returned the favor. It might be even nicer if The Capital modified their online content for the scamming article and gave Patch the proper credit. What do you think? Pipe dream?

PS: And if The Capital really wants brownie points, get rid of the paywall. If there is a similar story that is on The Capital and another source, we usually will link to the other source since the links will live on forever. The Capital paywalls the stories after about a month and requires people to buy an archive account to access them. And nothing ticks off a reader than following a dead link.


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About the Author - John Frenaye

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for nearly 25 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news–and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.

John’s background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.

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Comments (19)

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  1. Bridget Shea says:

    Totally agree with you. There is a place for everyone and in this new economy, we all have to work together to survive. I don’t understand why industries like the Post Office and print media haven’t planned for the inevitable change that has been coming on for years. It’s not really that new. When a topic is covered, my family gets more accurate and in-depth stories about Annapolis when they read the Toledo Blade than I get reading the Capital.

  2. Natalie says:

    I couldn’t have said this better myself! Wow! :) Great article!

  3. pat furgurson says:

    Dear John,
    Per the paving scam:
    One should check their facts before taking a swipe at folks.
    I never received a call about the paving scam in Lothian, and didn’t tell anyone we were not interested..
    I wrote the story after the police press release.
    I did not know Patch had reported anything about the scam because, frankly, I don’t read it regularly.
    Had I known Ms. Stephenson, who is a good reporter, had done so I would have acknoledged. Police did not mention her efforts in their investigation.
    I also note, for the record, a certain blog has reproduced my reportage on more than one occassion with nary a nod.
    E.B. ‘Pat’ Furgurson III
    Staff Writer
    The Capital.

  4. pat furgurson says:

    Dear John Redux,
    And another factoid you obviously did not check out: well-paid? Most Patch staffers make more than most of my fellow scribes here.


  5. pat furgurson says:

    pardon my typo, acknowledged.

  6. John Frenaye says:

    Thanks for the reply–and for reading! Since I did not receive the call, I am not sure who the woman spoke wiht at The Capital and I merely said that she told Patch that The Capital was uninterested and THAT is how Patch got the story.

    We are pretty fastidious about linking to sources here. If we reproduced your reportage unattributed, please let me know and I will correct it.

  7. John Frenaye says:

    The term “well-paid” is subjective for sure. But Patch (and other new media) certainly does not have the resources available to The Capital.

  8. pat furgurson says:

    I don’t really read this thing….a colleague brought it to my attention.

  9. LOLOLOL says:

    LOL, sounds like someone got under the skin of The Capital. Good job John they have been going downhill for years

  10. John Frenaye says:

    Since you are not a reader Pat, I am just wondering where your previous statement about not giving you credit on more than one occasion came from? Maybe your colleague let you know–ask him/her where it was and I will be sure to correct.

    In any event, please let your colleague know I said thanks for reading.

    For the record, I do read your “thing” every day.

  11. pat furgurson says:

    it was some time ago, a couple of city police stories. no need to correct at this point.

  12. Eddie Money says:

    It’s a real shame about the Capital. It once was a good, solid paper chock full of relevant local news and commentary. Now, sadly, it has sold out to corporate and political interests and has lost a lot of its shine with locals. I cancelled my subscription after many years due to this fact and that the Capital, like many other newspapers in the country, simply cannot compete with digital media.

  13. KStewart says:

    I appreciate the time you put into this piece, John. There’s a lot of helpful information here. A couple of thoughts:

    (1) Patch is incredibly well funded. They are AOL’s last ditch effort to stay relevant in the Digital Age, and while their journalists (particularly their freelancers) aren’t pulling in six figures, they are making more than writers at The Capital. Any of them can chime in here, but that’s the most obvious reason why a number of them have left the publication for Patch in the last few months.

    (2) You are spot on when it comes to Annapolis being able to support a diversity of media, but The Capital and Patch are gunning for pretty much the same niche – pyramid-style, broad community news. It’s Patch’s stated goal (cf. the NY Times article on them a couple months ago http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/business/media/17local.html) to replace local newspapers, so I’m sure you can see why there’s tension there. Our publication, The Sound, is built on an NPR-style, investigative/reflective/conversational journalism model using print, HD vid, and streaming audio/radio, so we’re glad to see Annapolis have multiple sources that provide the sort of content that both The Capital and Patch provide.

  14. You ask, “why can’t we all get along,” yet you publish a one-sided piece containing assumptions, accusations and other such innuendo, all without making any attempt to contact anyone at The Capital. Even columnists bear some responsibility to try to get both sides of a story.

    I’ve received a number of emails from you over the years yet you didn’t ask me what the deal is with commenting on HometownAnnapolis before making claims that we’re targeting your account? Your account is no different from any other on HTA. It so happens that comments containing URLs are held for moderation before being posted. The reason is that, without that safeguard, we routinely get hit with waves of SPAM.

    While journalists tend to be a collegial bunch, we also happen to be competitors. For decades, The Capital has been the little guy up against The Sun and The Post.
    While we hold no animosity toward those big guys, we do like to beat them when we can. Given that we’ve got to expect that Patch and Eye and others are going to find stories before we do.

    When we break a story ahead of The Sun we don’t expect them to give us credit just because we printed it first, after all there’s a good chance they got the information on their own and did their own reporting. That’s the way it works.

    The fact remains that HometownAnnapolis is far and away the dominant website in Annapolis and that’s because of The Capital. We are, first and foremost, a print product. That’s where the money is – still. Our stories are written, by in large, for the paper. URLs aren’t so useful in print. I love to have them online because they serve the reader. Picking a few instances where we didn’t provide an active link doesn’t reflect what we do on a daily basis.

    And who says Patch is one of the little guys? Last I heard AOL had invested something north of $50 million in Patch. Meanwhile, Eye on Annapolis and even the City of Annapolis website routinely has higher traffic than the individual Patch sites. Believe it or not I’d like to see them prove that you can establish a sustainable business model from a web-only community news site.

    Nick Lundskow
    Interactive Media Editor
    Capital Gazette Newspapers

  15. Mitchelle says:

    Thanks for following up on this item John. I appreciate it.

    I worked at Roll Call many years ago, and we had this issue with the Washington Post and Washingtonian not attributing — and that was a big print vs. little print situation (long before digital media was even born). Old issue, new applications.

    That said, I don’t feel that we (Patch) compete head-on with The Capital. Sure, we sometimes cover the same stories, but we also cover things they’d never touch (too hyperlocal) and they certainly cover stuff that Patch would steer clear of.

    I remain a loyal subscriber and daily reader. I tell people that Patch is to The Capital as the City Paper is to the Washington Post. And the post and city paper have coexisted peacefully for decades.

    While I hold that there should’ve been attribution on this item, their CMS is simply not built for hyperlinks. Web publication happens after the paper closes and would require someone to go in and add links afterwards. That would be very laborious, and would necessarily happen after the paper has closed and everyone is concentrating on the next day’s edition.

    That said, I will continue to attribute when significant work on a story has been advanced by another publication. Journalistically, it is the right thing to do.

  16. pat furgurson says:

    Yeah, what he said. Hmmm, isn’t that the primary model here?

  17. John Frenaye says:

    Nick, we will have to agree to disagree. I have seen instances where reporters call foul for not referencing the breaking source. And yes, some of them were Capital reporters berating The Sun, etc.

    We have communicated on the issue of the URLS and but the fact remains that when I post a URL, the comment is (to my recollection) not held for moderation and appears immediately with the link stripped (the URL is treated as text) yet there are others who post URLs and they remain clickable. Perhaps it is a glitch, but I feel I do contribute to the HTA online community. I think even your colleague, Paul, would give me praise for using my real name and my question is at what point does HTA trust their readers. We have an algorithm in place to vet out commenters.

    Yes, you are certainly the dominant site in town and it is largely due to your stature as a news organization. By the nature of that, you receive prime billing in all search engines and for the keywords selected. Perez Hilton and Huffpo are both larger than HTA, but if they all ran the identical story, HTA would trump them every time.

    Sure Patch is funded by AOL, but on the hyper local level, they are little guys. They are one person shops staffed with the new breed of backpack journalists. The write, interview, collect, photograph, video, post, and troubleshoot. So I do feel my comparison is valid. For this paving story, it was one woman who hunted it all down. Had The Capital chose to look into it, there would have been a reporter, perhaps a photographer, toss in a few editors, and likely yourself to bring this to the forefront along with millions (?) of dollars in equipment and vehicles. So yes, in the local market, you guys are the big guys.

    But in all seriousness, I realize that links don’t look pretty in print. I get it. But certainly there is no reason that they cannot be used online….or is there?

  18. John Frenaye says:

    Interestingly enough, yesterday, this post was published discussing the CMS programs of today’s newspapers and how they are not capable of handling digital content.

    While it is water over the dam, the attribution would have been nice. The Sun did it last week for Pam Wood when she broke the story about the Governor’s Butler help wanted ad. A simple “originally reported in The Patch” hyperlinked on the digital end. was probably the right thing to do.

  19. Natalie says:

    I think it is obvious that this entire post made its way through the Capital email listserves and they have responded quite loudly.

    Nonetheless, unless The Capital truly embraces new media (and that includes websites like Patch and Eye on Annapolis – and expanding their web presence) they will continue to fail along with the larger dying print medium. Young people don’t pick up newspapers anymore. And why? Because they have instant access to real stories that effect them via Twitter and websites like this one. Why would we pick up a newspaper when new media is updated constantly and can cater more relevantly to our interests? Also, new media is FREE and readily available from our computers/smart phones 24 hours a day.

    Although I agree with Mitchelle’s argument that the Capital can’t go back and add links of attribution after their print is ready to go out – – I believe that this only serves as further evidence for the failure of the newspaper in the larger framework.

    This isn’t the Capital’s fault, but it appears to be the inevitable direction of the industry. Even at Towson University’s Mass Communication program, we were taught that print is a dying medium. Speed, relevancy, and the ability to reach thousands of people for free is crucial to succeeding in a modern market. Rather than attacking Eye on Annapolis for publishing this article, the members of the Capital newspaper should consider collaborating with websites like this one to improve their web presence and appeal with a younger audience. My family quit getting our Capital subscription for all these reasons & I’m sure that we are one of many that feel this way.

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