Onward to AOL

Heidi DietrichAfter nearly a year of working as a freelance journalist, blogger, and contract writer, I’m heading back to the world of full-time work.

Starting November 7th, I’ll be working for Patch, AOL’s new, ambitious nation-wide network of local news sites.

Like many of the best opportunities in life, I somewhat stumbled into this one. It took a phone interview with Seattle journalist Mike Lewis to turn me on to the possibility of working for AOL.

I first connected with Lewis earlier this year, when I wrote a Washington News Council blog item about his decision to buy the Streamline Tavern on Lower Queen Anne. The move from Seattle P-I columnist to bar owner wasn’t typical, and I was intrigued by how Lewis felt about the career shift.

During our conversation, Lewis told me about everything he embraced about life behind the bar, and also everything he missed about journalism.

Fast forward several months, and I found myself once again on the phone with Lewis. This time, I wanted to talk to him about his decision to take a job as regional editor for Patch.

As we discussed his reasoning for joining the AOL team, I became more and more intrigued by what the company was doing. AOL, I learned, planned to spend $100 million and hire 1,000 editors to build its nationwide Patch effort. The company was positioning itself to become one of the country’s largest employers of journalists.

In the Seattle area, AOL would be rolling out 24 local news sites. Lewis was brought on to oversee 12 South Seattle Patch local editors, plus a roving editor, sports editor, calendar editor and copy editor for the cluster. A still-to-be-hired second regional editor would oversee the same size team for North Seattle.

I found that I shared many of Lewis’ reasons for being interested in Patch. AOL is investing significant money and effort in the venture. Lewis compared the job so far to working for a fast moving tech start-up, with all the excitement and uncertainty of launching someone new. Lewis and I both agreed that the chance to be part of a massive journalism experiment, in a time when no one knows for sure where the industry is going, was intriguing.

When Lewis asked if I’d have any interest in a local editor job, I told him I did. I liked the fact that local editors were given the autonomy and independence to run their own site, manage their freelance writers, and decide what news content to post every day. I’ve never been an office person and love the freedom of making my own decisions. Patch would give me the chance to take a project and run with it.

While I’d be making a web site my own, I’d also have the perks of working for a big corporation. Weekly team meetings, an editor, a regular paycheck, and benefits. A sense of stability freelance journalism can never provide.

Late last week, while in Boston for the Head of the Charles regatta, I accepted AOL’s offer to become the local editor for the Patch Edmonds site. I chose Edmonds because I already know the community. I grew up in the neighboring city of Shoreline, have friends and relatives in Edmonds, and currently live in North Seattle. I love the passion and loyalty Edmonds residents feel for the waterfront community.

Since Patch remains a new and untested venture, I can’t yet predict what will happen with the sites. But I’m excited to be part of such an ambitious effort, and I’m glad to be part of the early development process.

I plan to continue to blog for the Washington News Council, so long as it doesn’t conflict with my work and coverage area at Patch. I enjoy keeping up on happenings in Seattle’s broader media world, and the WNC blog provides a great outlet for me to do so.

On November 7th, I’ll head down to San Francisco to join all of the west coast Patch team for a conference. I’m looking forward to finding out more about AOL’s plans for Patch, and to meeting all of my future colleagues.


About Heidi Dietrich
HEIDI DIETRICH has worked as a journalist and writer for the past decade. She began blogging for the Washington News Council in spring 2010. Read Heidi's blog posts, see more about Heidi, or see more of what she's writing at http://heidiseattle.com/.


  1. Congratulations on the move to Patch — I’m really excited about AOL’s investments in local news, and think they’ve made a great hire (in you!).

  2. Heidi, Congrats! I’ll be eager to hear your updates on the new adventure. Stay in touch.

  3. Kevin Clark says:

    My name is Kevin Clark, former Washington Post photojournalist and current wedding photographer. I’m truly excited about Patch and it’s possibilities. I’m writing to make myself available for the various Washington State Patch communities. I will shoot my first assignment for the Bonney Lake/Sumner Patch on Halloween and look forward to many more such opportunities. Lauren Padgett, editor of the Bonney Lake and Sumer Patch, has requested my press pass and I’ve completed the AOL “New Independent Contractor Agreement”.

    My photography experience is intensive and varied. I have photographed everything from US presidents, CEOs, every major sporting event to food, fashion and product photography. Currently, I own and operate a wedding photography business.

    As a photojournalist for the Washington Post, I have learned to operate and in many times compete for tight daily deadlines. I cherish that time and now I’m ready for the next chapter in my life. I love photojournalism and would gladly jump at the chance to work your publication. I’m looking for the chance to exercise my skills that I honed during my ten plus years working at various large market newspapers and believe Patch is the future. Please review my resume and my website at http://www.kdcimages.net. I hope this letter finds you well and thank you for your consideration.

    • Heidi Dietrich says:

      Hi Kevin,
      Thanks so much for getting in touch. I believe I will be looking for photographers, so it’s very good to know about your interest. I’ll be learning more about specifics once I actually start (Nov 7th), so I’ll re-loop with you at some point after that.
      Thanks for the note!

  4. Sam Taylor - Bellingham Herald says:

    Heidi – A new and exciting opportunity for you. Best of luck and I hope that someone at the council will keep in touch with all of the Patch staffers to let us know how this experiment goes here in Washington.

    Should be interesting to see if it ever expands our way north to Whatcom County and the Bellingham area.

    I could use some friendly competition. ;)