As newspaper executives struggle over whether the news should be digital first, tablet first, SMS first or print first, readers know exactly what they want their local newspaper to be -- community first.Reading a newspaper is not like reading a novel, a magazine, a history book, poetry, prose or any other type of literature.Newspapers are not about what has happened in the past, what is happening some place else, or what happens in an author's imagination.Newspapers are about us.Newspapers are about our child's first school field trip, a Friday night high school football game, a livestock show at the county fair or an increase in our property tax rate.At least those are the things that a relevant newspaper is all about whether you read it online or sit down with a morning cup of coffee and enjoy the traditional printed edition the way it was meant to be.Newspapers -- viable, strong, growing, thriving newspapers -- are all about the communities they serve.Sure, in the interest of transparency, some newspapers have struggled in recent years.Many more are growing.So what's the difference between the newspapers on a downward spiral and those that are adding days of publication, adding staff and printing more sections and pages than ever before?Really, it is not all that complicated.In fact, it is rather basic.The difference is community.Newspapers, like any business or individual, will always struggle when they stop doing the things they do well.In a quest to be more modern, to be more business savvy, or to use more silicon, we cannot lose sight of the single most important characteristic and historically important aspect of a quality newspaper: you, our readers.We hold public officials accountable, advocate for openness in government and champion the cause of ordinary citizens, because we are committed to the neighborhoods, cities, county and coverage area we serve.Newspapers do not make the news. They report it.Of course, a newspaper wants to celebrate its community. We share the great human interest stories, provide a slice of life in the county, highlight worthwhile causes, focus on interesting people and most especially on our young people with every edition.With intelligent, thoughtful, compelling commentary, coupled with clearly written, straightforward news reporting, we work every day to tell the truth and in that way we remain a vital and positive part of the community.The newspaper belongs to the community.That is why we work every day to give citizens a voice, to empower them and tell their stories.Newspapers, the good ones, still make a difference in the communities they serve.As newspaper reporters, editors and staff, we have the weekly opportunity to do something -- something that matters to our community and in all of our lives.As long as people still read, still care about their quality of life, still love the place they call home and still pay taxes, newspapers that retain their role as watchdogs of government and that celebrate the lives of ordinary people will remain relevant, will matter to the community and be a part of your every day life.--Jim Zachary for the National Newspaper Association


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