By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
In March 2009, the 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its final print edition. The Rocky Mountain News in Denver closed down just two months shy of its 150th anniversary.
Between 2007 and 2009, the print newspaper industry lost 13,500 jobs.
Two Asian American reporters who once worked in print now write stories for the more interactive medium of the Internet.
On June 11, 2009, global web services company AOL acquired Patch Media Corporation for an undisclosed amount. The new Patch, a hyper-local news and information platform serving several cities in the United States, claims it has hired more journalists in 2010 than any other organization. So far, the most recent total stands at more than 900 journalists.
While working at The Olympian newspaper in Olympia, Venice Buhain learned about Patch from Chamorro (indigenous people of Mariana Islands) American journalist Brent Champaco, who had just been hired by Patch and now works as the editor of University Place Patch.
Buhain said, “I was an education reporter, and I had a blog. I was doing a little bit of video, and this (Patch) was something that was very focused on online.”
As a journalist for more than 10 years in Western Washington, Buhain said she found Patch “pretty intriguing.”
“It was focused on the strengths of online, which are immediacy and the ability to share [photos, videos, and discussions].”
She applied for a job and soon became the local editor of the Bellevue Patch — Patch’s third website to launch in Washington state — last October.
While reporting on stories in Bellevue, she said its residents tell her that they miss having a daily newspaper. “I think that paper or print still has a very important role,” Buhain admitted.
“When I go out into the community, they thank me for the type of coverage we do,” said Buhain. “They do have a weekly (Bellevue Reporter) paper, but I think people do want that daily news.”
She added, “I think that there is a void, especially if you don’t have a daily paper — what you don’t get is your briefs every day. You don’t see your event calendar every day. Things like that, things that make you feel connected to a community.”
Recent Bellevue Patch stories include, “Celebration of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on Feb. 3 and “Medina Police Chief Takes Back Resignation, Put on Leave” on Jan. 21.
Buhain explained, “I wouldn’t call [the Medina Police Chief Jeffrey Chen story] a scoop. [But] it was something I had first. I definitely had that one before anybody else.”
Brad Wong worked as a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter from 2002 to 2009, including two years at its Bellevue bureau. “I covered regional issues [in Bellevue],” he said. From there, he worked in Seattle and covered such business issues as economics, biotechnology, and trade.
The Chinese American journalist became the local editor of Sammamish Patch in early November 2010.
“I applied for the job because I believe that community journalism, no matter the medium, is important. Information helps people,” Wong said.
“In this job, I do more multimedia projects. I edit and write stories, and I work with freelance stories. At my previous job as a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, I typically just wrote articles.”
Patch is a network that has launched almost 800 local news websites. Currently, its websites operate in many other states including New York, California, and Illinois.
“Something that we put emphasis on at Patch [is that] we want that interaction with people,” said Buhain. “And so, we encourage people to post their own events. We encourage people to post their own announcements. We want them to comment. That’s really what gets people excited about the site.”
“My job at Patch is to treat Bellevue like it’s the most important place in the world,” she added. ♦
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.