After all, if it hadn't been for Patch I never would have had the chance to return home and write about the town I spent more than 20 years growing up in.
I can't honestly say that it was all a part of my master plan to return to Fair Oaks and become a dedicated reporter for the area, but it may have been one of the best decisions I ever made. I know that now.
Before I came to Patch, I had been a reporter in the Bay Area for a trade publication called Crittenden Research, Inc., covering the healthcare industry. That meant I was writing about reform, medical malpractice liability insurance, tort and insurance company executives. It was dry, but it was a start. I was fresh out of college and just looking to get practical experience somewhere. I didn't know where I was going, because I didn't really feel like I needed to yet. I coasted along, cultivating my ability to interview people and refine my researching skills. Then in 2010, without warning, the floor fell out from underneath me. I was laid off.
Being an unemployed journalist living in the Bay Area is only slightly more difficult than being an employed journalist living in the Bay Area. I tried freelancing for some publications for awhile, but it simply wasn't working out. As the checking account funds continued to dwindle, my perceived San Francisco lifestyle started looking less and less appealing, so I moved back to Sacramento. I was unemployed for about five months when my college friend Cody Kitaura insisted I apply for an editor's position with this year-old online startup Patch.com. So I applied. It took about 15 minutes to hear back from someone. Jump ahead about a month and I began work on launching Fair Oaks Patch in November of 2010.
I am not sure I will ever fully remember the ensuing five weeks. It was a blur of developing good story ideas, hiring crack freelancers, finding the properly balanced note to strike for the publication, writing stories, taking photos, meeting new and old friends to talk about Fair Oaks over coffee. Somehow it all worked out. I must have been awake from 6 a.m. till 3 a.m. the following morning the day the site officially launched on Dec. 14, 2010.
The response didn’t come immediately. Indeed, even two-and-a-half years later I still get the same question: “What’s the Patch?” But I knew I was a part of something that was growing each day. And even when I would receive an angry e-mail or a late-night phone call from someone who took issue with a particular story I wrote, I knew I was making a difference. People cared enough about their community to let me know about it. Luckily the positive emails and phone calls always outweighed the negative ones. I made friends – lots of them. People began to trust in what I was doing. I wasn’t just some blogger.
That’s when things got really real. First, I started travelling all over Sacramento to meet with local officials about the goings on of this sleepy little unincorporated community. I got plenty of funny looks from certain public officials at first, but soon they understood what I was trying to do. It wasn’t just a platform for me to pontificate about chickens or bike trails. The community I was writing for really cared about these issues I was writing about. It was just as much their publication as it was mine. I was going back to San Francisco to get training in innovative ways to deliver news, learning more about the power of multimedia and using it to improve news on Fair Oaks Patch.
Then things got even more real. In August 2012, editor Victor Calderon announced he would step down from his role with Carmichael Patch and that I would take up his mantle. Fair Oaks and Carmichael Patch became Fair Oaks-Carmichael Patch. My potential readership jumped from about 33,000 in Fair Oaks to a combined population of nearly 100,000. This was happening all the while I was working toward launching Citrus Heights Patch the very same month. As busy as I thought I had been with Fair Oaks Patch, I had absolutely no idea how busy I could possibly be.
All of this was because of Patch and Cody Kitaura, who urged me to submit that application.
Changes kept coming. I took on more publications, basically becoming an editor for 10 sites across Northern California, but I never wanted to lose sight of Fair Oaks, my home. Victor Calderon moved to Tucson, Arizona where he is a managing editor for The New Vision, an online newspaper for the Roman Catholic Diocese. Former Elk Grove Patch editor Felicia Mello has since moved to Las Vegas where she manages the online presence of Vegas Seven magazine. Still Cody is here and so is Justin Cox of Davis Patch and Lauren Gibbs of Roseville Patch, and their contributions will continue to define Sacramento Patch. That’s a comforting thought for me.
Now I’m leaving. An opportunity for me has come to be in Anchorage, Alaska, where I will supervise a team of online writers and develop innovative ways in news delivery for the NBC affiliate, KTUU Anchorage. I’ll be joining my beautiful girlfriend who is already there. I probably would not have had the opportunity to meet her had it not been for Patch bringing me back to Sacramento. I had other opportunities to leave, but never took them for a number of reasons. First off, Fair Oaks is my home. It always will be. I have family and plenty of friends that still live there. I should probably just change my name on my driver’s license to “Josh from Fair Oaks Patch,” since I introduce myself that way so often. However, Fair Oaks-Carmichael Patch will endure without me. The publication has a new focus and it will be very exciting to see where that new direction takes the publication.
Cody gets the biggest thanks for planting the Patch seed in my head. I didn’t have a master plan before I started working with Patch, but Cody really showed me what great things could be done in local journalism and Patch was a fantastic facilitator for that effort. Thanks goes to the editors I mentioned before, the men and women down in the trenches giving these communities a voice and a tangibility through Patch. Thanks to all the great people whom I had the chance to write about and work with through the years. Thanks to all the public information officers who I badgered and hounded and pestered all these years. Your jobs are not easy, and I appreciate everything you did to make my job easier. Thanks to Liz, the love of my life, who put up with my frustrations, late work nights and the fact that my laptop and work phone may as well have been grafted to me.
Thank you to the stories and the people who helped make them. That’s what this was all about for me, anyway. Talking to sources and hearing their stories never gets old. I’ve always loved telling stories, whether it is for news or in my spare time with my videos and short stories.
Saving the best for last – thank YOU, the readers. I’m glad you liked (or at least tolerated) what I wrote. I’m glad you kept coming back to Patch to get your local news and I hope you keep coming back long after I’ve moved on. I know sometimes we had our differences of opinion, but I always trusted that you were smart enough to voice your opinion in the comments section with intelligence and constructive criticism. On the whole, you did just that. We had conversations and listened and it was great. I never tried to write down to you or take your intelligence for granted and if I somehow managed to do that, you’d let me know pretty quickly. Maybe Fair Oaks-Carmichael Patch’s audience was never the biggest and/or the most vocal all the time, but you were the best and the brightest to me.
My time with Patch has been one of the best and most satisfying journalistic experiences I have had … so far. But I’m moving on. I can’t tell you exactly where this journey will take me, but I know my resolve to be a writer was solidified through the experiences I take away from Patch. Follow me on the journey by following me on Twitter and Facebook.