AOL, Patch Team Up With Slew Of Journalism Schools For PatchU Project

AOL and its subsidiary Patch this morning announced the launch of PatchU, a new network of partnerships between local Patch publications and journalism schools, colleges and universities to help prepare the next generation of journalists for future endeavors in the ever-evolving new media landscape.

The initiative, which debuted this fall, offers internship and coursework opportunities at local Patch publications to students under the guidance of Patch’s editors.

Thirteen schools across the U.S. are already participating in the program as members of the PatchU network, which allows their students to learn more about Patch’s products, teams, and systems and the company’s hyperlocal business model.

Patch recently debuted the PatchU program at Hofstra University on Long Island, NY, where enrollment has begun for a fall/winter internship offered jointly by the AOL company and Hofstra’s School of Communication. Through the arrangement, students will gain course credit and practical journalism experience at Patch’s Mineola, NY publication, where they will be supervised and mentored by the Patch local editor for that community.

Throughout the internships, AOL says students will work with a faculty advisor to ensure they meet learning objectives of the program. Students learn to pitch and write stories, cover local events, shoot and edit photos and videos, integrate content with social media and produce stories online using Patch’s CMS.

Participating PatchU partner institutions include:

– Hofstra University School of Communication (founding partner)
– The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism
– University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication
– Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism
– Missouri School of Journalism
– University of Connecticut Department of Journalism
– Indiana University School of Journalism
– Stanford University Graduate Program in Journalism
– Columbia College Chicago Journalism Department
– University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
– University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism
– Seton Hall Department of Communication and The Arts
– Quinnipiac University Department of Journalism

Sounds to me like an elaborate recruitment and/or brand awareness campaign, but perhaps I’m being overly cynical here. Perhaps it’s their publicly announced wish to hire an additional 500 journalists for Patch and become the largest hirer of full-time journalists in the U.S. by the end of this year that triggers said cynicism.

Patch launched its 100th community-focused site in August, now operates about 186 and plans to expand to more than 500 U.S. neighborhoods in 20 states by the end of 2010.

Needless to say, it needs a ton of editors to keep content coming, and communities buzzing on these sites, and now future journalists will be able to check out how things work over at Patch before they graduate.

My question to them if they consider this to be beneficial for them, the j-schools as well as AOL / Patch, or merely the latter two.