News Archive 2009-2018

Profile: Brian Farnham ’93 (Bowdoin Magazine) Archives

Brian Farnham '93

Brian Farnham '93 (Illustration by Chelee Ross '12)

Hometown: New York City

Title: Editor-in-Chief of Patch

Bowdoin ties: Just me. And my high school soccer coach, if that counts.

Bowdoin Major: English

Twitter: @brifar

Greatest influence: My older brother, Tom. The most decent person I’ve ever met.

Favorite Bowdoin memory: Beating Middlebury to win the rugby championship my junior year. Still Bowdoin rugby’s only championship.

Next vacation: Renting a house in Deer Isle, Maine. My wife and I love Maine, and this will be our son’s first trip.

Song playing on my iPod right now: “The Killing Moon” by Echo & the Bunnymen.

Number of texts sent today: Eight. All to my wife about funny things our son was doing.

Coolest job-related perk: Working in SoHo.

Home page set to:

What led to me to Patch: In simplest terms, what led me to Patch was the opportunity. And this is going back to when we didn’t even have the name “Patch” yet, and the concept was nothing more than that: an idea and a blank slate. At the time I was approached I was Editor-in-Chief of Time Out New York magazine and very happy in the role. But the one thing I was itching to do in my career was to help build something that was truly new in journalism, and Patch was clearly that. Actually, another Bowdoin grad and good friend, Jon Brod ’93, was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Patch, and he brought the idea to me when they were trying to get it off the ground. So, you could say Bowdoin led me to Patch. In the “early” days of Patch (all of two plus years ago), the challenge was actually reining in our ambitions. We knew we wanted to build an online platform that would serve a community with all the news and information it found relevant, but where do you start that mission and, more importantly, where do you end? It came down to deciding we weren’t going to “boil the ocean,” but instead start simply and build on that. You don’t want to stop reaching for the wow factor, but you need to make sure it’s something the platform should do and that the end user will really use.

The challenges of being editor at Patch end up being the same as the most rewarding aspects: finding other passionate journalists who really get jazzed about the idea of creating something new and different. There are a ton of talented journalists out there, but not all of them have the stomach for an online start-up focused on community news and the 70-hour work weeks it can demand. We now have 83 live sites in five states, and by the end of the year we hope to be in hundreds more. To expand at that pace and maintain quality, you really need amazing professionals. They’re not easy to find, but when you do it’s an awesome feeling.

On a media career: When I graduated from Bowdoin I knew I wanted to write, but I hadn’t quite decided what form that would take. My naive fantasy was that I would undertake a professional career in journalism but conduct a private vocation in fiction writing. The reality was I got swept up in the career. Of course, I also could just be lazy. I’ll finish all my novels some day. I swear.

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I love working in media and I actually got involved when I was still at Bowdoin. Between my junior and senior years I applied for and was accepted to the amazing summer internship program at the American Society of Magazine Editors. They placed me at New York magazine, which was a dream because I’m from New York, so my love of local, hometown journalism was well stoked. After graduation I took any job in journalism I could – I lived in Colorado for a year and worked for a small weekly paper out there, then came back to New York and became a freelance fact-checker. What Bowdoin helped me do was appreciate the value of well-roundedness. Besides writing ability, the best thing a journalist can have is a broad base of reference. I think knowing just enough to be dangerous in many subjects is the definition of a good journalist. The only thing you really need to be a master of is finding the experts to fill in what you don’t know. I always thought the Bowdoin experience in general enabled the expert dabbler really well.

Note: Former Bowdoin magazine student interns Alix Roy ’07 (South End, Mass.) and Darren Fishell ’09 (Diamond Bar, Calif.) are now, by pure coincidence, local editors for Patch, and Travis Dagenais ’08 is a contributor to Alix’s South End Patch.