Patch sets sights on 500 hyperlocal websites, plans to hire hundreds of journalists

Journalists working for traditional media, like newspapers and TV stations, might be surprised to learn that the biggest hirer of full-time journalists in the United States this year may be AOL’s hyperlocal online news and information platform Patch.

The company Aug. 19 announced the launch of its 100th Patch site, Morristown (NJ) Patch, as well as its plans to expand to more than 500 U.S. neighborhoods in 20 states by the end of 2010. In all, more than 500 journalists are slated to be hired this year, the company said.

Every Patch site is run by one professional local editor. Freelancers provide a variety of news and information to its community. The sites consist of both text-based and video stories. "We believe Patch is a revolutionary and efficient approach to producing relevant, quality local journalism at scale, and we couldn't be more excited about expanding into hundreds of new communities across America this year," said Patch President Warren Webster.

Currently, Patch sites exist for communities in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Virginia. The 2010 expansion includes plans to extend Patch's reach into more than a dozen new states, including Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.

Besides offering professionally produced news, Patch sites give community members the chance to comment on stories, post photos and announcements, and contribute items to community calendars.