AOL (NYSE: AOL) is looking to professionalize its hyperlocal blog network Patch by partnering with journalism schools at universities and colleges on local online newspapers and training programs. The program is called PatchU and it has 13 initial school partners. The effort is part of AOL’s wider goal of expanding the Patch network by adding 400 hyperlocal sites over the next six months, bringing its total to 500, making it the largest local blog network in the country.
The PatchU program provides students internships and coursework at local Patch online outlets. In addition to covering stories for Patch, the program also aims to teach students to create a business model, as well as shoot and edit photos and videos, integrate content with social media and produce stories online using Patch’s leading content management system.
While the connection between a business like AOL and university j-schools might seem a little too cozy, these particular communications programs are certainly under a lot of pressure considering the contraction of jobs at more traditional publications like newspapers and magazines. On top of that, j-schools need to evolve to face the more technical and entrepreneurial demands individuals will face when they graduate. Meanwhile, AOL has been one of the largest hirers of journalists en masse over the past two years as it has sought to build up its content side.
The PatchU news also comes on the heels of other reforms in educating budding journalists. The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, which is also one of the starting partners with AOL on this program, just announced it has received $3 million funding to create the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. The center, which will be directed by Buzzmachine’s Jeff Jarvis, who is also an associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at the CUNY j-school, will establish the country