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Larry Lough

How will you celebrate Newspaper Week?

Another year, another opportunity to observe – celebrate! – National Newspaper Week.

The good news is, You have a local newspaper here to serve the community’s needs.

The better news is, You will have your local newspaper for many, many years to come.

Despite the dire predictions of doom over the past few decades, newspapers in markets like the Sauk Valley have been better able to face the challenges of technology.

For newspapers in the big cities, it’s a different story.

But as Hoosier crooner John Mellencamp would say, You were born in a small town ...

LAST YEAR, A GUY named Warren Buffett bought 28 local newspapers for $344 million.

Why would an investment genius like Buffett invest in a “dying industry”?

Because he understands the difference between big newspapers and small newspapers. He said he had no interest in buying the financially struggling Chicago Tribune.

He explained it this way:

“Newspapers continue to reign supreme in the delivery of local news. If you want to know what’s going on in your town – whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football – there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job.

“A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about Canadian tariffs or political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents.”

Local newspapers. No substitute. Indispensable.

You going to argue with Warren Buffett?

NEXT WEEK WILL be National Newspaper Week, the 73rd year for the observation of the importance of newspapers to their communities.

This year’s theme is, Your Community, Your Newspaper, Your Life.

We’ve heard of no local plans for a parade, or a party, or even a cake.

But the editor promises to pick up doughnuts for the staff one day next week.

We don’t want to overdo it.

NEARLY 40,000 people see this newspaper each day – the printed edition.

And although that number is down slightly, we still have more readers than ever.

Last month, in the height of vacation season, our website had more than 1.2 million page views, with about 93,000 unique monthly visits.

Throw in our tablet and mobile audience, and we’re pushing 1.5 million page views.

Our Facebook pages (including the new page) had nearly 11,000 friends – a figure that will be about 11,500 by the time you read this.

An additional 4,300 follow us on Twitter.

The newspaper has certainly changed since the days when ink-on-paper was your only option.

Thanks for reading – no matter how you prefer to do it.

FOR THE RECORD, we have to place an asterisk next to that phrase “more readers than ever.”

When Sauk Valley Media was the go-to source for the world (literally!) on news about the arrest of Rita Crundwell, the numbers were higher.

News does sell newspapers – and attracts readers in all forms.

Believe it or not, a $54 million municipal theft is news – everywhere.

In May 2012, the month after Ms. Crundwell was ’cuffed by the FBI at Dixon City Hall, our website had 1.86 million page views with nearly 387,000 total visits and 155,000 unique visits.

But not all of those people who dialed us in during the Crundwell frenzy are interested in our local obituaries or high school sports in the Sauk Valley. So after a while, some of them stopped coming by regularly to check on developments in the story.

But maybe if our website could host a RitaCam from her room at that federal prison in Minnesota. ...

We don’t think she would go for that.

OUR MANY READERS come in all shapes and sizes, a mass audience with a wide range of interests and opinions.

They read our newspaper – in print, online and otherwise – not only to obtain information, but to share their thoughts with others.

Their ideas show up in letters to the editor, in comments posted to our website, and on our Facebook pages.

It’s not always a place for honest and intelligent discourse. One reader said as much in a recent online post.

“I do believe that the comment section of the Sauk Valley News website has become the personal blog for a few nut jobs,” he wrote. “Can’t people come here, post a well thought-out comment and then move on? If you want to ramble, ... start a blog. If people want to listen to your nutty theories, they will subscribe and visit your site.”

That assessment is a little harsh, but then, some of the comments posted are a little nutty.

Which ones are nutty? Those are the ones you disagree with.

But that is the nature of open debate, where bad ideas compete with good ideas in the wide open information marketplace. In the end, the good ideas win.

If you insist on civility, better stick with the newspaper’s printed version.

WE HAD A SHORT discussion recently on our website about reading the newspaper.

Specifically, one of our local curmudgeons complained that the police chief of Dixon was posting comments to our site – using a city government email account.

“I didn’t know that part of the police chief’s job was reading the newspaper,” wrote the commenter, who termed the chief’s postings “inappropriate.”

The editor suggested in response that it should be everybody’s job to read the newspaper.

We suspect the chief – who is doubling his fun these days as special assistant to the city council – is like the editor, with a job that doesn’t follow a 9-5 schedule, one that involves interacting with the public whenever the public wants interaction, which sometimes includes nights, weekends and holidays.

All public officials – and most public figures – ought to follow community discussion in the newspaper and on its website.

Because this community has made our newspaper its forum of choice for debate on local issues, there’s no better place to get a sampling of opinions – especially if you’re looking for disagreement.

That is an important role for a community newspaper, and one we’re happy to fulfill.

Even if you don’t bake a cake for this special week, we know you appreciate what the newspaper offers. You show it by reading regularly.

That’s all the celebration we need.

How will you celebrate Newspaper Week? shaw-push-component-1