“I was skeptical whether an online-only newspaper could thrive by itself at first,” said Kym Liddick-Byrnes, the Bureau Chief of the Westminster branch of Patch.com, an online-only newspaper.
The current trend for many of the nation’s newspapers is to make themselves available to readers online as well as maintaining a traditional print format. While many papers started out offering the online version for free, a lot of newspapers are now charging a small subscription rate for the service. A major difference between those papers and Patch.com is that Patch is only available online and it is free.
Another major difference is that Patch.com confines itself to local coverage of a particular area. Patch.com defines itself as “a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.”
Patch.com works by assigning a bureau chief, who then finds freelance reporters to cover stories in the area. Liddick-Byrnes finds many advantages to being a bureau chief, the major one being that she gets to set her own hours. This means she can get her kids on the school bus and let the dog out before responding to emails and checking on the site. She has the freedom to contact her reporters and see what’s up with the stories she assigned at any time.
The difficult part of having a staff made up entirely of freelance reporters is that she has to keep careful track of who will be available to write stories each week. The Westminster branch of Patch has a lot of familiar faces, as a number of McDaniel students are freelancing for the online newspaper.
Sophomore Elec Trainor just wrote his first story for Patch.com. He covered a local rugby team, which he took great enjoyment in doing. “I wrote my first story last year, and now I have written my first story that I am going to get paid for. I covered something I didn’t know much about and it was really fun. Writing this first story for Patch has definitely increased my interest in journalism.”
Junior Cullen Murray-Kemp has been writing for Patch.com for a couple of months and has had several stories published. His favorite assignment so far was writing about the local Boys & Girls Club; he hopes the story helped the organization by letting people know it was there, and maybe increasing the number of volunteers or those making use of the club’s services. He also has had a positive experience writing for Patch. “It’s a good way to really get into the field and get experience on how to be a journalist in the real world,” Murray-Kemp said.