We launch TheConnecticutWatchdogNewsHour Sunday at 6 p.m. on Internet radio/video discussing a topic that has been avoided by most of the traditional media: Patch, the most important development in journalism that has taken place in the last few years.
You can listen Sunday and you can participate by joining the accompanying chat room. I and producer Brian Parker will be monitoring the chat room and asking the guests your questions and passing on your comments. It is the cutting edge of participatory journalism.
The program will be saved if you want to listen and watch it later. There will be video on Sunday but it will take a couple of weeks to have full-video capability in the studios of SMCmedia in Avon, which produces the popular Sunday Morning Coffee Hour and is developing additional programing.
Patch was founded three years ago and was purchased by AOL last year. AOL is pumping tens of millions of dollars into the project and has launched its hyper-local news sites in more than a dozen states, with a major focus on Connecticut and Massachusetts where it has hired dozens of veteran journalists.
By the end of the year Patch is expected to have 500 journalists working for it in the states shaded on the map below.
Patch is hiring more journalists – including several of my friends who were let go by The Courant – than any other company in the country, probably as much as most newspapers put together.
In Connecticut Patch is already up and operating in several southern towns providing critical local news – everything from school boards to charities – with one editor and at least one correspondent for every town.
Patch is hiring veteran journalists to cover central and southeastern Connecticut communities including of course West Hartford, where it named seasoned journalist Susan Schoenberger as its local editor. She had been foolishly let go at The Courant. Other Courant alumni involved in Patch are new Central Connecticut regional editors Jeanne Leblanc (who designed Ctwatchdog with Tom Twitchell who is now with the NY Times) and Marie Shanahan.
Not only is Patch hiring jewels abandoned by newspapers, it is basing its business plan on making money in local news, where newspapers like the Courant abandoned as too expensive to cover and unprofitable. Patch has plans to bring national advertisers (like Starbucks) as well as provide local advertisers with opportunities.
Predictably, the established media has not given Patch much attention, other than critical pieces about a couple of minor missteps the start-up has had or declared its business model a formula for failure.
Patch’s Northeast Editor Anthony Duignan-Cabrera has agreed to participate in the radio program, along with Torrington Register Citizen Publisher Matt DeRienzo and Middletown Press Editor Viktoria Sundqvist – two people who know the importance of local news and whose newspapers never gave up on.
I will host the program from the studio in Avon where both Matt and Viktoria will also be speaking from. Anthony will be calling in from the the road.
Paul Bass, editor and founder of the nationally lauded Internet news sites New Haven Independent and Valley Independent, has been invited to join us in the chat room to add his comments and questions.
In Connecticut Patch has launched in the following towns and cities:
Bethel, Bethwood, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, East Haven, Fairfield, Ledyard, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, Newton, North Haven, Ridgefield, Southbury, Trumbull, Westport, and Wilton.
Patch news sites in Connecticut that will launch soon:
Avon, Canton, Cheshire, Clinton. Farmington, Hamden, Killingworth-Durham-Middlefield, Madison, Manchester, Mansfield-Storrs, Meriden, Milford, Montville, New London, North Branford, Norwalk, Oxford, Seymour, Shelton, Simsbury, Stamford, Stonington-Mystic, Suffield, The Granbys, Tolland, Wallingford, Waterford, West Hartford, Weston-Redding-Easton, Windsor Locks-East Windsor and Windsor.
Each of these towns, cities or groups of towns will have a local editor who must live in that community and is encouraged to participate in local charities. These positions pay between $35,000 and $42,000 a year and are demanding jobs, requiring several daily columns, and blogs. Plus the local editor has a budget for one or more stringers.
The following is information that Patch editors want to tell you about their sites:
Patch is a community-specific news and information platform with more than 300 sites (and expanding) dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.
Run by professional editors, writers, photographers and videographers who live in or near the communities we serve, Patch aims to strengthen improve the lives of its readers by serving as a resource for the news and information that matters to them most, while offering an interactive platform for user-generated announcements, photos, video, and business listings. Patch also believes we can’t truly serve a community unless we provide the help it needs most, which is why giving back is so important to us.
We do it as part of our coverage — in a dedicated space that lets local charities and volunteers find each other — and with a program called “Give 5,” through which we donate free advertising space to charitable organizations and contribute our own time as volunteers. We have also launched Patch.org, which will partner with community foundations and other organizations to fund the operation of Patch news and information sites in communities that need them most: inner-city neighborhoods and underserved towns around the world.
• Patch started with 3 towns (Maplewood, South Orange, Milburn-Short Hills) in one state (New Jersey) in February 2009.
• We are at just over 300 sites now, in 14 states plus D.C.
• We aim to be at 500+ by the end of the year.
• Massive amount of content produced; 3.5 million pieces of content produced so far. Excluding Tweets and Comments, one piece of content is published on the Patch platform every 60 seconds; including Tweets and Comments, it’s every 30 seconds.
• We are the largest hirer of journalists in 2010.
• 75% of our journalists make more money or the same salary as in their previous positions. (25% were either freelancers or are recent J-school grads.)
• Each site is run by a Local Editor, a “walking newsroom” equipped with a laptop, cell phone, camera, and police scanner. Our LEs work from home, local coffee shops, libraries, wherever they want to in their communities.
• Our journos range from recent J-school grads to traditional media veterans (average of 9 yrs experience). All are held to strictest of editorial standards. In addition to in-depth training when hired, constant check-ins from editorial supervisors and editor in chief.
• Patch is part of the “local ecosystem,” and is changing editorial landscapes in our towns. Our level of professional journalism, coupled with user and organization contributions, plus community features and other technology, allow Patch to be a hub of information and interaction in a town. Anyone producing local content can participate on Patch.
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