Local Voices: Hyperlocal Blogging Comes to Patch

Today we launch a great new chapter for Patch.com, AOL's national network of hyperlocal sites currently covering community life in over 800 towns across America. It includes a vision that will utilize every possible resource to ensure accurate, relevant and comprehensive coverage of these towns: our ever-expanding network of Patch editors and reporters; aggregation of any news affecting these communities; and cross-posting and amplifying the work of local bloggers who are already doing great work, providing them an even more powerful platform for expressing their views.

The timing couldn't be better. Patch will provide an unprecedented infrastructure for citizen engagement in time for the 2012 presidential election, with a focus on community and local solutions. And it will exemplify our belief that a left/right approach to news and politics is outdated. Patch pages harbor no ideological or political slant, which is not to say that we expect them to have no political content. As is the case on HuffPost, Patch bloggers will be free to post their views on a range of subjects -- from politics to entertainment to local issues. These features will allow Patch readers to instantly put a finger on the pulse of their community.

What's so exciting about Patch is that it will bring quality, comprehensive news coverage to places that need it most. It's no secret that a disproportionate amount of news coverage is centered on our country's major cities, with their multiple newspapers, competing TV stations and armies of bloggers. Which, of course, is all well and good. But Patch's unprecedented contribution will be to bring that same energy and quality coverage to the suburbs, villages and small towns too often neglected by traditional media. As much as any major American city, these towns provide a snapshot of our national story, a real-time portrait of the way we live now.

A place like Fridley, Minnesota, to pick one example out of 800, is a great testament to the relevance of Patch's mission. On the east bank of the Mississippi River, Fridley is home to businesses big and small, including the headquarters of a Fortune 500 company, Medtronic. It sits in a congressional district represented by Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, and is near the congressional district represented by potential presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. Last November, Fridley voters sent two women to the state Senate, Democrat Barb Goodwin and Republican Pam Wolf. The city's riverfront and creeks are lined with parks, and Fridley citizens have devoted their time and talent to maintaining city-owned nature preserves. Like any place, Fridley has its struggles: poverty, the need for redevelopment, businesses struggling to survive the recession, the need for local jobs.

If you spend time with reporters or bloggers, you know that any of these issues offers an abundance of opportunities to explain, scrutinize, share and opine. And for readers, they are the stories of their lives. It is our hope that Patch will be the place you turn to for news about the things that matter to you -- and your community.

Starting today, we are welcoming new bloggers to Patch sites around the country through our new Local Voices blog feature. Local Voices will complement Patch's original reporting, allowing members of each community to speak up and speak out to their neighbors -- whether they're across town, a block away, or two doors down. Local Voices reflects our belief that community residents feel deeply about their local issues, and deserve the chance to share their thoughts on issues great and small. As a forum for thriving conversation, Local Voices will connect all members of the community -- be it the mayor, a school principal, a businessperson or a member of your family.

I hope that along with making Patch your go-to destination for hyperlocal news, you'll join Local Voices and let your voice be heard. If you've got something to say about your community -- say it on Patch!