Thanks to a couple of readers for their comments about blogs and the future of traditional news media. I started writing a response as a comment, but started rambling. So here are a few thoughts.
I used to work for one of the best-known and most respected international news agencies, and can well remember customers predicting 20 years ago that the Internet would eventually take over. In the future, they said (these were investment bankers by the way), news would be free and accessible to all, and everyone, whether Joe Public or Megabank plc would be free to pick and choose.
To a certain extent that has happened, as news agencies and newspapers now put most of their content online. All of them are struggling to find a business model to make it work and become sustainable, with Murdoch blazing a trail and charging for access.
The trouble is that news gathering is a very expensive business. The only way that the big news agencies can survive is thanks to cross-subsidies from other parts of their business, and there have been endless chicken-and-egg debates about this.
Then there is the question of which sources you can trust. Wikipedia is a good example; it is free and much of the content is good - but can you trust it? I was recently doing some research on extremist religious groups, and it became obvious that some of the entries had been severely compromised by the subjects of the entries themselves. Sometimes that tampering was more subtly done and harder to spot.
All of that sounds very far removed from the Carmarthen Journal, Tivyside Advertiser and Llanelli Star, but the same principles apply. Even though they are much more politically timid than they used to be, for fear of upsetting advertisers in the main, I would still rather read their output than rely on the spin and propaganda which is churned out of the press office in Carmarthen, and there is no comparison between their coverage of local news and events and the combined meagre outpourings of local blogs.
How much longer the current status quo will hold is anybody's guess. The sad truth is that the slow death of local newspapers will continue, and nothing will really replace them.