Board Makes Room For New Pottstown News Outlet

POTTSTOWN PA – It became a bit crowded last week in the press section of the Pottsgrove School District‘s Kauffman Road administrative office conference room. That’s because more members of the press have begun showing up for the Board of School Directors’ meetings.

States (in dark green) with Patch news operations

District residents now have not one, not two, but three different and independent sources of Pottsgrove school information on which they might rely.

Sanatoga Post Managing Editor Joe Zlomek and Evan Brandt of The (Pottstown PA) Mercury newspaper – who merits the title “dean of the Pottsgrove reporting corps” – were joined at last Tuesday’s (May 24) meeting by Jamie Richard, representing a new online news service known as “The Pottstown Patch.”

The Pottstown Patch, which launched last week, is the latest in a series of efforts by AOL Corp. (formerly America OnLine) to expand its revenues by selling advertising that accompanies local news content. Supervised by Editor Teresa McMinn, to whom Richard answers, the Pottstown edition intends to cover the borough, the Pottstown and Pottsgrove school districts, Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township and Sanatoga, and occasionally more rural places like West Vincent.

AOL also operates a Limerick Patch (covering Limerick, Royersford, Spring City, and the Spring-Ford School District) and a Perkiomen Valley Patch (covering Collegeville, Schwenksville, Trappe, and the Methacton and Perkiomen Valley school districts), as well as a Phoenixville Patch, Norristown Patch and West Chester Patch. Almost 60 Patch services are up in running in Pennsylvania alone, and others operate in 21 additional states.

More news outlets, of course, mean more choices for news consumers. It’s been an interesting exercise during the past week to compare perspectives on stories generated by The Post, The Mercury, and The Patch when all three cover the same events.

That Pottsgrove has a press section at all surprises some visitors. It’s a six-foot-long white table, accompanied by two chairs, that the administration thoughtfully set aside for media use. Almost 20 years ago directors wrestled with determining how and from what vantage points reporters would be allowed to use recording devices during board deliberations, and decided an official table was the best answer.

The December 1992 district policy that established the press table also allows the board president to control how much camera lighting can be used during meetings.

Members of the media being an ornery lot , the press table is rarely used. Reporters sit with the audience (their theory presumably being they’ll stand out less in a crowd). The table, however, conveniently holds publicly available copies of the board agenda and forms that must be completed by individuals who wish to address the board during time it reserves for comments.