Hyper-local journalism is getting jumpstart in communities nationwide with the new website, Patch.com. The site provides communities a forum for sharing local events, photos, and announcements that are specific to that region. Searchable by state, city, or zip-code, the site assigns each region a “patch” that is covered by the site. What truly drives the site, however, is the content that is determined entirely by members of the community. A group of professional editors run the site and monitor each patch, but the content comes directly from the people. Anyone can post a blog in their community’s patch or sign up their local business to be advertised on the site. This collaborative format is the driving force that brings communities together and keeps them informed in a fun, interactive way.
Patch.com is a forward-thinking site in the sense that it recognizes two very important trends in journalism. 1. That individual journalists are becoming obsolete; and 2. The importance of local news. Anyone can blog now, anyone can take a picture and share it, often faster than any media outlet can. With today’s technology anyone has the power to share information with millions in the matter of seconds. Anyone can be a “journalist”.
Now, thanks to the internet, we do not need thousands of small-town newspapers covering the same national event. A small newspaper trying to cover a crisis in Syria will only lead to mediocre coverage and shoddy reporting as a result of lack of resources. Or they can take information from other media sources, but that defeats the purpose of online news for these stories. Regurgitating news on a smaller scale simply muddles the message and can have consequences when done poorly.
I am not undermining the importance of having competition in the media. On the contrary, I think it is the most important quality of the media that keeps it fair and balanced. If one outlet had a monopoly on the newspaper business their bias could ruin the very foundation or honest journalism. What I believe is best, and what Patch.com is doing quite well, is having a news outlet write about what they know. A local news website, writing about local news and interacting with the citizens of that community knows more about that community than any other outlet and is the ideal source of information for them. Let local news be the leading authority on local news, and let the leading authorities on Syria report on Syria.