For at least a year, much of my news from Tewksbury and Chelmsford comes from their respective “Patch” sites. Patch.com is part of a nationwide effort by America Online to revive itself. There are 800 different Patch sites around the country with four in the Greater Lowell region: Tewksbury, Chelmsford, Wilmington and Westford. Each has a fulltime editor who, according to a recent article in the New York Times, earn $38,000 to $45,000, work from home, and are expected to publish up to five items daily. In addition to content from the editor, all the Patch sites post articles, columns, videos and photos from citizen journalists.
Patch is one of many efforts to fill the “hyperlocal news” void that exists in many communities. Patch, being well-funded and geographically prolific, certainly stands out and is worth a look. Nothing comparable exists in Lowell – the NYT article claims Patch sites are located in “relatively affluent towns that are more attractive to advertisers” – but I do think there’s opportunity. Perhaps a journalism club at either UML or MCC could launch and staff such a site, or perhaps it will bubble up organically from the community. I don’t see blogs such as this one fulfilling such a role although the many local blogs here in the city would willingly – I assume – provide cross-posted content to such a site. Perhaps at a future blogger meetup we can make this a topic of conversation.