CHICAGO
01/23/2011 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

AOL's Hyperlocal Patch Network Takes Over Chicagoland

CEOs must love it when small folk call them evil--nice guys don't wind up masters of the universe. Apple's Steve Jobs, Google's Eric Schmidt--you know they get it all the time. (Google Google and evil or Apple and evil if you have doubts.) But it's Apple and Google choosing up sides to see who gets to rule the Internet--as Tim Wu details in his new book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.

So I'm wondering if it made Tim Armstrong's day when someone asked him point-blank at last month's Online News Association conference in Washington, D.C.: "Is Patch evil?" Armstrong is CEO of AOL, and Patch is AOL's new online network of hyperlocal news sites. The case that it's evil is the usual one: too big, too heartless. Across America, Patch is supposedly strutting into town with all of AOL's financial muscle behind it to crush the real grassroots news organizations, its cat's-paws being journalists desperate for work that Patch hires for peanuts and exploits like gulag slaves.

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