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Patch.com: now reporting from a neighborhood near you

photo by Libby Franklin

In these times of change and uncertainty in the media industry, many doomsday scenarios predicted the end of small-town news coverage.   As small dailies and weeklies all over the country shut their doors, many wondered what , if anything, would fill the void.

Enter Patch.com.

Launched in 2007 and acquired by AOL in 2009, Patch is a new and growing news platform dedicated to hyper-local coverage in under served media markets.  (Think water main breaks in Webster Groves, and school board meetings in St. Charles.)

Launched on the east coast, Patch made its Missouri debut in July 2010, and is now operating in 21 regional communities.  By the end of the month, they’ll be up in running in three more (St. Peters, Arnold, and Wentzville).    Regional editors Holly Edgell and Kurt Greenbaum, along with Maplewood-Brentwood Editor Ryan Martin stopped by today’s St. Louis on the Air to chat about the Patch approach to local news.  Greenbaum summed it up this way:

It’s really being as close to your house as we can be.  We want to be in the communities, really talking about what’s going on around your block, with your school board, with your city council.  It’s difficult sometimes because there are a lot of issues that cross municipal boundaries and whatnot, but we really feel like the opportunity here is getting news to people as close to where they live as we can and that’s what we’re focusing on.

And it’s catching some people by surprise.

Ryan Martin says when he first showed up to cover a Brentwood Board of Alderman meeting, some of the town leadership was surprised to see him there, saying, “Who are you?  Nobody comes to these meetings." And, that, Holly Edgell says, is the point.  “We’re talking about hiring someone like Ryan to live in or within 10 minutes of that community, having them be on the ground, on the front lines of neighborhoods and communities. ”

Patch has started more than 600 hyper-local news sites around the country.  And so far at least,  the for-profit model seems to be working for them, in part because they keep overhead low by eliminating office space. Patch reporters work from home, or from the local coffee shop, staying in constant contact with each other, their editors, and their sources, all while on the move.

For more about what Patch is up to, listen to the full audio from today's program, and check out their website to connect with the Patch site nearest you.

And stay connected with us, too!  Tweet us your thoughts @STLonAir or find us on Facebook.

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