WRNI, the local National Public Radio affiliate, operates a series of blogs on its site — most prominently "On Politics," written by former Providence Journal political reporter Scott MacKay and former Phoenix news editor Ian Donnis.

A must-read for the State House crowd and media types, the blog breaks news on a consistent basis and has built some agenda-setting power.

WPRI-TV has a full-time blogger in Ted Nesi, whose political and business analysis has developed a strong following — and provided a glimpse, perhaps, at the future of broadcast web sites.

This Phoenix reporter has his own politics-and-media blog, "Not for Nothing," which breaks news from time to time and offers some context and analysis. And there are the nakedly partisan political blogs — the lefty RI Future, which has seen better days, and the conservative Anchor Rising.

What do the blogs and the emerging golocalprov add up to? If nothing else, a nudge to Rhode Island's media Goliath.

"It's really the first time in memory," says Felice Freyer, the longtime health care reporter for the Providence Journal, "that I feel there's competition."


CAN PATCH SURVIVE? THE TOUGH MARKET FOR LOCAL NEWS

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For the desperate hordes of unemployed journalists — American newsrooms shed some 13,500 jobs between 2007 and 2010 — AOL's Patch has been a sort of godsend.

The company, the largest employer of journalists in the nation for the past couple of years, has launched 800 local news sites in short order — and it's still growing.

In Rhode Island, the company operates 15 sites, in towns like East Providence, East Greenwich, Newport, Portsmouth, and Narragansett. And AOL is eyeing about a half-dozen other towns for expansion.

Scott Pickering, a regional editor for Patch who oversees several sites in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, is the first to acknowledge that the company's lightly staffed journalism is neither comprehensive nor world-beating.

But, he says, "there have been a number of times when we're the only people sitting in a room watching what the government does." He points to a piece on a proposed anti-bullying policy in East Greenwich that the Rhode Island affiliate of the ACLU called out as overreaching.

And when Republican State Representative Dan Gordon, Jr. commented on a Patch story about a new gay-straight alliance at Tiverton High School — suggesting the students were running a "sexual meet-up" group — he kicked off a town-wide tempest that spilled over into talk radio.

It's all part of AOL chief Tim Armstrong's bid to rebuild a fading Internet company on the strength of original reporting (sites like DailyFinance and tech outpost Engadget), coupled with aggregation (the recently acquired Huffington Post and outside.in, a local news aggregator that could be used to beef up Patch sites).

But it's far from clear that the strategy will work. Some 80 percent of AOL's profits still come from its dying dial-up service. And the future of the company, Internet advertising, has proven a shaky foundation for many a business — including a series of failed hyperlocal news ventures.

Patch president Warren Webster, in an interview with the Phoenix, argues there is reason to think his enterprise will succeed where others have not. First, he says, the shift of eyeballs and advertising dollars to the Internet is accelerating at a pace we've never seen before.

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