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Former Santa Cruz Patch editor Brad Kava believed in the promise of the format. Photo by Chip Scheuer.

Former Santa Cruz Patch editor Brad Kava believed in the promise of the format. Photo by Chip Scheuer.

Last Wednesday, the new owners of Patch.com pulled the plug on over 300 of its remaining editors, including Santa Cruz's own, Brad Kava, who ran Santa Cruz Patch for the past three years.

“I never worked so hard in my life,” says a recovering Kava. “You know, a lot of 18 hour days. But I never loved a job so much either. The first thing I did in the morning was log onto Patch, and that was the last thing I did at night. And you know, it was out of love.”

Acquired by AOL in 2009, the platform of 900 hyperlocal news sites struggled to make a profit, and lost over $200 million before a majority stake was finally sold to Hale Global on January 15. But even after 2013's wave of layoffs—which cut the employee number down from 1,000 to 450—last week's drastic downsize came as a shock, especially after CEO Charles Hale promised a Patch experience “full of innovation and growth.”

“It didn't make sense to me that someone would buy it and then break it down,” says Kava. “I thought that if they bought it, they believed in it and wanted to build it even stronger.”

For someone who's just lost his job, though, Kava's reflections are extremely positive. Sure, Patch expanded with reckless abandon—and who wasn't skeptical, really? But somewhere between Patch's rapid and abundant sprouting, its short-lived bloom and ultimate fizzle, Kava became a believer in the future of hyperlocal news.

“I thought we might not break through in Santa Cruz,” says Kava. “Because Patch was originally designed to be in places that didn't have other media. But we did. And it was growing, and would have kept growing.”

When Kava became editor in December of 2010, the site had 7,000 unique monthly visitors. The month of his termination, Kava reported over 100,000, and maintained an average of 50,000 monthly visits for most of its run. Writing three to seven stories a day, he put Santa Cruz on the map every time a story was picked up by a national news source—which happened often.

“The genius of Patch is they really made us feel like we owned our Patch, so I felt like I was working for myself, I felt like an entrepreneur, really building something,” says Kava. “They never questioned our content. They said 'we trust you to reflect your community, what you think is important is what's important.'”

So while east coast Patches wrote about Little League, Santa Cruz Patch published columns like David Jay Brown's ever-popular “Catch the Buzz,” which explored the science and benefits of psychedelics, among other illicit things. “I believed in it so much I paid him out of my own pocket when the money ran out,” says Kava. “Which is one of the craziest things I've ever done,”

But Kava's 22 years as a Mercury News reporter gave Patch an edge on serious, investigative stories too: He investigated and exposed the lack of Harbor Police patrol on the night of a brutal rape at Kind Grind—winning a San Francisco Bay Area Press Club Award. At the same time, he encouraged writers like myself to write about seemingly trivial items, like Seabright's two dollar “Wow Wow” Tuna sandwich. “So what's great journalism? Turning people onto something in their community they didn't know about,” he says.

While Hale Global's plans for Patch remain secret, they appear to be keeping all 900 Patch sites online—with only 100 or so employed. “So, hyperlocal is gone,” says Kava. “I think what they want is for the community to take it over, to be bloggers. That was always one of their goals. But I think what they gave up is serious journalists, and editors who could sort the content into what was really local, and what was true and what was important.”

In his eyes, Patch was the best of a daily and weekly combined, and he dreams of continuing on with a similar news site. But, he says: “I'm a journalist, not really a business man.”

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  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz Paul Mendoza

    One problem with local journalists is they often don’t read each other’s work, and Grusauskas is showing a lack of familiarity with the SC Patch’s content.

    One of the worst things about Brad Kava, besides his locally conservative political bias (he almost served as the unofficial mouthpiece for Take Back Santa Cruz), was his horrible photos. He posted dozens if not hundreds of out of focus shots and pushed on the public some of the worst photography I have ever seen from a “professional” journalist.

    In this article, Brad Kava states this about the Patch leadership: “I think what they gave up is serious journalists, and editors who could sort the content into what was really local, and what was true and what was important,” which is extra scary considering what he said on the SC Patch about Take Back Santa Cruz member Dylan Greiner (before Greiner was arrested). Kava said: “I also know Dylan…and he is absolutely credible. He has no motive to do this except to help out and keep the beaches safe and clean. We owe him for this one. It shows what one person can do, if they have a mind to do the right thing.” http://santacruz.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/what-can-one-man-do-surfer-s-youtube-video-gets-actioe5d10342c4

    Kava was politically biased in his reporting, very often not addressing the other sides of issues in his articles. He was also wrong about the facts constantly and put out a ton of misinformation. His most recent gaffe was identifying Loma Prieta as Mount Umunhum in an article, which was mild compared to his error laden reporting on the off-leash dog issue that had to be corrected by a volunteer SC Patch blogger.

    The Santa Cruz Patch was a cesspool of misinformation and political bias, and there’s no amount of money that could have saved that horrible “hyperlocal” site.

    No, Brad Kava, a three sentence “article” with bad photos about Pamela Comstock’s birthday is not a real news story.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz Lisa

    Well – this sucks. See you ‘round town, Brad.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz Tracy Mongold

    That’s too bad. I am really going to miss his content. Hopefully Brad will rebound at another local paper.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz TommyG

    I knew Brad’s name was familiar – he used to do those great music reviews for the Mercury.  Hope you get another gig you like, Brad…

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz Barbara Davis

    Well, SantaCruz.com can hire Brad!

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz Selina

    Bring David Jay Brown’s column back, simple, ethical and Right

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz David Jay Brown

    It’s so sad that Brad was cut,as he was such a wonderful editor—but I look forward to seeing his next—and better—incarnation. Brad spoke to me years ago about starting his own news service. Maybe now is the time to start a Kickstarter program to raise funds for such a noble project?

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz Angelo Figueroa

    I know Brad from my days at the San Jose Mercury News and I know what a terrific person and journalist he is. So it’s a sad day for Santa Cruz. Hopefully, Brad will find a new place to offer his wisdom and talent.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz Camilla Boolootian

    I will miss Brad’s take on our local news.  I read or at least skimmed his daily posts.  I think he did a great job at covering Santa Cruz.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz Mary Grace

    So disappointing! I thought there was a source of real news for Santa Cruz…something I could trust to provide accuracy and passion. I’ve become dependent on Brad Kava to fill in the gaps I read in everyday Sentinel articles. And on quite a few occasions The Patch was the only source addressing breaking local news that didn’t gloss over or ignore the details. Sorry to see Brad Kava’s version of the Patch go by the wayside. Your work was appreciated and I hope you’ll find another avenue to pursue your journalism skills.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz Kimber

    This is a real travesty. No one else kept us so well informed of what was really going on in our community, and Brad did it well. He encouraged many, including myself, to blog about things he knew were powerful and all affecting. Brad is journalism at its’ best and many of us followed Patch, because of what he made it. The numbers don’t lie. Nice move Patch! You might as well throw in the towel. There is something better out there for you Brad. Keep doing what you do.

    Kimber

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz Brad Kava

    Thanks for the kind words, Lisa, Tommy, Tracy and the rest…Much appreciated..as for that other a-hole…piss off.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2014/02/04/patch_cuts_santa_cruz rachel griffin

    Well put.