September 16, 2010

Patch as Patch can: New websites hiring Md. journalists

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

As other news organizations shrink, there is a new, fast-growing media operation in Maryland called Patch.com that has hired more than 50 journalists in the last few months.

Funded by AOL to the tune of $50 million a year nationwide, Patch.com is now in 11 states. The company has already launched 18 sites in Maryland with another 32 being rolled out over the next few months.

Patch.com is a network of “hyperlocal” news websites, which focus on small geographic areas. The emphasis is on local news and service features — with a heavy dose of food, shopping and directories — in addition to traditional news and features.

Among the first to launch was the Lutherville-Timonium site, which debuted in connection with the State Fair.

The journalists are a combination of recent journalism grads and older hands in the new business. “We’ve got a pretty good mix,” said Doug Tallman, former State House bureau chief for the Gazette of Politics and Business. As a regional editor, Tallman oversees a dozen sites in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.

Each local site has an editor, who is a reporter and photographer as well, and who oversees a team of freelancers. The Lutherville site is edited by Nick DiMarco, a recent Towson University graduate who interned at MarylandReporter.com. http://timonium.patch.com/  

The Chevy Chase site, which is set to launch soon, is edited by Natalie Neumann, a University of Montana graduate who also interned at MarylandReporter.com and WAMU.

Other Patch editors will be familiar to readers of the State Roundup. The Gazette’s Sean Sedam will be editing Rockville, and refugees from the late Baltimore Examiner and the limping Washington Times are at the helm of other sites.

“This is just an extension of what I like about journalism,” said Doug Donovan, the regional editor for northern and eastern Baltimore County, as well as Harford County. He took a buyout from the Baltimore Sun in 2008 and had been freelancing.

At first he was concerned that Patch would simply be a network of bloggers, but he realized Patch had “a commitment to local journalism.” From the days at his college newspaper at the University of Delaware, “I wanted to start my own newspaper” and with Patch, “ I have an opportunity to create all these different newspapers.”

Tallman too said he saw Patch as an opportunity to return to what he liked best. For him, “I have always felt that as city editor of the Frederick News Post, I was most happy.”

“This is at core a coaching position,” Tallman said. “These people are in charge of their websites,” and his job is to “push them in the right direction.”

“We’re still very much a start-up,” he said. The model for the websites that began in Connecticut and New Jersey, where cities, towns, townships and boroughs are the basic level of government, needed to be adapted to the political culture in Maryland.

Around the country, “We planned to be in 500 markets by the end of the year,” Tallman said. “We’re at 140 now.”

At that pace, Patch.com will likely hire more journalists than any other U.S. news organization this year.

The Patch.com sites that are up and running in Maryland include: Bel Air, Colesville, College Park, Ellicott City, Greater Annapolis, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Kensington, Lutherville-Timonium, North Potomac-Darnestown, Odenton, Perry Hall, Potomac, Riverdale Park-University Park, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Towson and Wheaton. Coming soon are: Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Gaitherburg, Germantown, Havre de Grace and Rockville. Others will be added later.

By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

As other news organizations shrink, there is a new, fast-growing media operation in Maryland called Patch.com that has hired more than 50 journalists in the last few months.

Funded by AOL to the tune of $50 million a year nationwide, Patch.com is now in 11 states. The company has already launched 18 sites in Maryland with another 32 being rolled out over the next few months.

Patch.com is a network of “hyperlocal” news websites, which focus on small geographic areas. The emphasis is on local news and service features — with a heavy dose of food, shopping and directories — in addition to traditional news and features.

Among the first to launch was the Lutherville-Timonium site, which debuted in connection with the State Fair.

The journalists are a combination of recent journalism grads and older hands in the new business. “We’ve got a pretty good mix,” said Doug Tallman, former State House bureau chief for the Gazette of Politics and Business. As a regional editor, Tallman oversees a dozen sites in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.

Each local site has an editor, who is a reporter and photographer as well, and who oversees a team of freelancers. The Lutherville site is edited by Nick DiMarco, a recent Towson University graduate who interned at MarylandReporter.com. http://timonium.patch.com/  

The Chevy Chase site, which is set to launch soon, is edited by Natalie Neumann, a University of Montana graduate who also interned at MarylandReporter.com and WAMU.

Other Patch editors will be familiar to readers of the State Roundup. The Gazette’s Sean Sedam will be editing Rockville, and refugees from the late Baltimore Examiner and the limping Washington Times are at the helm of other sites.

“This is just an extension of what I like about journalism,” said Doug Donovan, the regional editor for northern and eastern Baltimore County, as well as Harford County. He took a buyout from the Baltimore Sun in 2008 and had been freelancing.

At first he was concerned that Patch would simply be a network of bloggers, but he realized Patch had “a commitment to local journalism.” From the days at his college newspaper at the University of Delaware, “I wanted to start my own newspaper” and with Patch, “ I have an opportunity to create all these different newspapers.”

Tallman too said he saw Patch as an opportunity to return to what he liked best. For him, “I have always felt that as city editor of the Frederick News Post, I was most happy.”

“This is at core a coaching position,” Tallman said. “These people are in charge of their websites,” and his job is to “push them in the right direction.”

“We’re still very much a start-up,” he said. The model for the websites that began in Connecticut and New Jersey, where cities, towns, townships and boroughs are the basic level of government, needed to be adapted to the political culture in Maryland.

Around the country, “We planned to be in 500 markets by the end of the year,” Tallman said. “We’re at 140 now.”

At that pace, Patch.com will likely hire more journalists than any other U.S. news organization this year.

The Patch.com sites that are up and running in Maryland include: Bel Air, Colesville, College Park, Ellicott City, Greater Annapolis, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Kensington, Lutherville-Timonium, North Potomac-Darnestown, Odenton, Perry Hall, Potomac, Riverdale Park-University Park, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Towson and Wheaton. Coming soon are: Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Gaitherburg, Germantown, Havre de Grace and Rockville. Others will be added later.