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January 20, 2011

In Brooklyn, hyperlocal news gets a boost with Patch (but we need much more)

Atlantic Yards Report

The nature of the local new media is changing and, for Brooklyn, there may be some promise in Patch, the AOL-funded enterprise that's hiring do-it-all editors (without offices) in communities around the country--800 so far, with a goal of 1000.

The editors are assisted by freelancers and other contributors and, in Brooklyn at least, form a bit of a network. Right now there's a Prospect Heights Patch, Park Slope Patch, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Patch, Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill Patch, and Bed-Stuy Patch.

What, no Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg? Maybe those communities were seen as already "taken" by the Brooklyn Heights Blog and culture blogs like Free Williamsburg. (Disclosure: I've done one freelance piece for Patch.)

Not just news

Patch, self-described as "your local source for news, events, business listings, and discussion," got some semi-skeptical treatment in a New York Times article January 17--an article that ignored Patch in New York but pointed out that the company is focusing on relatively affluent suburban towns that can generate advertising.

Indeed, Patch strikes me as optimized for small communities that don't have a newspaper to cover key local institutions like the school board and mayor's office. (See, for example, the comment by Ann O. at the bottom of this CJR post.)

Brooklyn lacks such cohesion--even the community boards stretch beyond a single community--so the match is inexact.

And Patch is still feeling its way. I'm not sure what an article on "Rent is Too Damn High" candidate Jimmy McMillan shilling for a New Jersey car dealership was doing on the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Patch. Then again, Patch did a nice job covering the memorial for former District Leader Bill Saunders--and no other news outlet bothered.

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Posted by eric at January 20, 2011 11:26 AM