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Patch Up and Running in Rhody

The Phoenix reported in June that media giant AOL was preparing to bring its local news project, Patch, to Rhode Island. Well, it's here. Patch - an online collection of town hall news, police blotters, and high school sports updates - has launched web sites for Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth.

The Rhode Island moves come as Patch announces the launch of its 100th local news site, in Morristown, New Jersey. The company, which already operates in nine states and Washington DC, plans to set up sites in 500 communities in 20 states by the end of the year. Patch expects to be the largest hirer of full-time journalists in the country this year.

AOL, which is betting heavily on original, on-line news and commentary - think Politics Daily and Fanhouse - to improve its sagging bottom line, sees Patch as a way to fill a wide open space for so-called "hyperlocal" news on the web.

We'll be keeping a close eye on its Newport site, in particular. It will be vying with the Providence Journal, Newport Daily News, and online operation Newport Now for scoops and advertising dollars.

Don't expect too much in the way of investigative reporting, though. Patch sites are thinly staffed, heavily dependent on freelancers, and focused on straightforward stories and feel-good features.

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