The Patch brand of hyperlocal news websites was conceived of as “a new way to find out about, and participate in, what’s going on near you.” A simple premise on its face, although one could argue that there’s not all that much “new” in putting local news on a website.
The fact that Patch is actually a commonly owned network of hundreds of individual neighborhood sites is new, but people who visit Silver Spring Patch are probably not all that interested in the business model at work. They want the “comprehensive and trusted local coverage” they were told would be delivered.
And do they get it? In some ways yes, in some ways no, and in some ways it is too soon to tell.
They are definitely getting a new source of Silver Spring specific news and information that did not exist before. To have a single web destination that focuses solely on one neighborhood without dealing in national news, DC news, or even Bethesda news is definitely a plus for the community. Points are scored, then, for simply existing.
So they’ve delivered local coverage, but is it comprehensive and trusted?
I can’t say that they have maximized the degree to which their local coverage could be comprehensive, but it also is worth noting that they have gone quite a bit further in that direction than any news organization had previously. Time will tell if Silver Spring Patch grows into its role as a comprehensive source of local news.
As far as the trust issue goes, in the past three months I have found absolutely no evidence that the coverage provided by Silver Spring Patch cannot be trusted. Their accuracy and fairness have not been challenged, at least not that I have seen. Deep trust is something that forms over time, though, as a community grows accustomed to habitually looking towards a specific news organization for the information that they need. This kind of bond doesn’t form overnight.
In a way, it is almost unfair to spend too much time on in-depth analysis of the job that Silver Spring Patch has done so far. I’m rooting for them to succeed, and hope that the growing pains they are going through now result in something more polished and more essential to the community in the future.