When Nina Ruggiero attends a local soccer game or a Board of Education meeting, she’s not just trying to get involved with her community after a long day of work; she’s AT work.

Ruggiero, a 2010 graduate of the University of Miami School of Communication and former editor for the print version of GrandAveNews, is the founder and editor of the Levittown Patch, an online hyper-local newspaper for the town of Levittown in New York. Though she may not go into the office every morning, with over 50,000 residents, two school districts, and three high schools to keep track of, covering the daily events of Levittown is a full time job for the recent grad. But Ruggiero, a former editor for the print version of GrandAveNews, embraces the total community immersion.

“It’s really busy, but it’s definitely a great experience,” she explains. As a local editor, Ruggiero writes, edits, and even records stories about everything from schools and government, to art and business, several times a day for her site, one of over one hundred up-and-coming Patch sites owned by AOL.

A relatively new startup, Patch is a national network of hyper-local news outlets that, according to one company press release, is already the largest hirer of full-time journalists in the United States. Published strictly online and focusing specifically on certain communities, Patch sites have caught the attention of both bloggers and professionals alike, many deeming it the “future of journalism.” At the very least, Patch is projected to be the biggest company hiring recent journalism graduates, like Ruggiero, in the near future.

Originally considering a job with the Sun Sentinel here in Florida, Ruggiero applied as a freelancer for Patch early last summer at the suggestion of a friend, who was already freelancing for the company. “I emailed a bunch of the local editors from towns near where I live,” she says, but after seeing her resume, one editor suggested she aim higher. By the first week in August, Ruggiero was working full time as the editor of her very own, brand new Patch in Levittown, a Long Island community about fifteen minutes away from her hometown of Mineola, New York.

Despite the proximity, before working for Patch, she knew little Levittown or its people; now, Ruggiero is an expert. She credits her success largely to her passion for and familiarization with local journalism, which she gained from her first-hand experience working with GrandAveNews while still a student at UM.

“The [School of Communication] classes really pushed me to write for other publications while still in school,” she says. “Having clips right away, that’s how I got this job.”

Today, Ruggiero is responsible for publishing and promoting her product, while managing a team of freelancers and effectively keeping a budget. It’s basically a 24/7 job for the young journalist, but the experience that she has gained in the short amount of time since her site’s September  launch has made every long day worth it.

“I would say recent graduates with journalism experience are ideal for local editor positions because you definitely need enthusiasm, a lot of energy, and knowledge of the internet and social media,” says Ruggiero. “Journalism is not dying- there are always publications that need your work and need clips. Just get as much experience as you can- and just be ready to work hard!”

 Upcoming graduates who are interested in working for Patch can apply for editorial, advertising, and marketing jobs at http://www.patch.con/jobs. Students interested in freelancing can e-mail local editors near them. A list of all the communities covered can be found at http://www.patch.com.

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