Patch’s march across the South

by andybechtel

Patch, the nascent effort of AOL to cover local news, is apparently on the move across the South.

Having already set up in the Atlanta area and in the D.C. suburbs of Virginia, Patch is now hiring in the Carolinas. Here’s the “work from home” editor job in a nutshell:

Run a local news site — reporting, writing, taking pictures and video; finding, assigning and editing freelancers and local columnists, and connecting with the community to attract user-generated content.

In this push, Patch is targeting the three major metro areas of South Carolina: Charleston, Columbia and Greenville. In each place, the sites focus on suburban markets. For example, the Patch websites in Mauldin and Easley will be competing with The Greenville News.

In North Carolina, the lone Patch job is in Fayetteville. That’s the largest city on its list of jobs in the Carolinas, and the job listing recognizes the presence of Fort Bragg. Candidates must “be able to quickly grasp the interests, rhythms and identity of a military community.”

Patch’s move into this region comes at a time when newspapers here are struggling for revenue and cutting staff. The Fayetteville Observer, for example, is building a paywall on its website.

Last week, The News & Observer of Raleigh announced that it would cut 20 positions, including 11 in the newsroom. A week later, The Charlotte Observer laid off 26 people, including four in the newsroom. The Raleigh and Charlotte newspapers are owned by McClatchy, which also runs the newspapers in Columbia and Myrtle Beach, among others in South Carolina.

Those decisions come as both states deal with unemployment rates that are higher than the national average. In short, the Carolinas and their media are vulnerable.

Looking at the map at the Patch homepage reminded me of another map, that of William Tecumseh Sherman’s march across the South during the Civil War. Patch’s path doesn’t follow Sherman’s precisely, but it’s similar.

I only hope that Patch doesn’t do to the local media what the general said he’d do and did: “I would make this war as severe as possible and show no symptoms of tiring ’til the South begs for mercy.”

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