Newspapers are dying.

It’s OK to admit. If we’re big on one thing in journalism, it better be the truth, especially when it’s staring you in the face.

Because of challenges presented by the internet and the consolidation of local newspapers into the portfolios of one of a few huge corporations, newspapers are, by any measure, withering on the vine — especially in rural areas like ours. We’re extremely fortunate in Maryville to be part of a community that has shown its support for quality journalism and allowed for successful, independent, local ownership to thrive.

We take our mission, our responsibility and our goal so seriously that we print it at the top of every page: We are The Forum.

It couldn’t be more appropriate that this year, the theme of the 81st annual National Newspaper Week from Oct. 3-9 across both the United States and Canada, is “community forum.”

Our name comes from, of course, the Roman forums of two thousand years ago, long before the printing press brought news to your door. In cities across Rome, citizens would gather to hear and discuss news in the forum, both formally and informally, and to trade in the marketplace. 

Today, we carry our community forum with us — rolled up in paper form, on our computers or in our pocket on our phones. In fact, just for the month of September, our website saw more than 144,000 visitors, many of them returning, but also many new readers reaching out for local content. Of those, 36 percent read our local content from a desktop computer, but more than 60 percent reached us on their cellphone.

It begs the question: If it doesn’t actually require paper, what even is a newspaper in 2021? What will it be in 2121?

The answer is at the top of not only each page of our physical newspaper, but our webpage as well: The Forum.

Though we take our name from the Roman forums, as long as there have been communities, people have gathered to become informed and discuss the issues of their community together. And as long as there are communities, community forums will remain as well.

Although the form our community forum takes is evolving, a newspaper’s mission is not tied to the ink on the page or even the page itself. And that’s a good thing. You don’t have to look further than The Forum’s Facebook page to see that the future involves more discussion, more representation and leads to more engagement with the decisions being made in our community. It’s truly an exciting time for journalism.

The demand for local journalism is as high, if not higher, than it’s ever been. And the way to ensure a vibrant community forum persists is to engage in the discourse and support it.

No one runs a local newspaper because they think they might get rich, and you won’t find any employees driving Lamborghinis either. But your support keeps us able to keep our community informed, and fulfill our mission.

At only $35 per year for both print and full online access, The Maryville Forum is one of the most affordable newspapers in the state, and one of the most decorated for its work. That’s only 67 cents per issue. 

When we think about the things we’ve spent three quarters on per week, were any of them as valuable as staying informed about the events in our community? What other things do we spend less than three dollars per month on that is worth more than being a part of our local discourse?

The bar to entry is low, but essential for helping us continue to perform our mission: to be your community forum.

So during this National Newspaper Week, we encourage you to, yes, subscribe. But also to continue to engage with local stories in whatever way you’re most comfortable, whether it’s reading our physical newspaper, clicking on stories on our website or scrolling through them on your phone (though we do suggest reading more than just the headlines). 

And then, talk about what you read. Talk about it with your family, with your friends, with your friendly acquaintances, with people you pretend to be friendly with but only barely tolerate — you might be surprised by a new perspective, find new support for one you already hold, or, most importantly, you might provide that for someone else.

And tell us about it too. Leave a comment on our Facebook page to tell us how we’re doing. Tweet at us. Send us an email, or write us a letter. Or just stop us when you see us at the store. Especially if you don’t usually, make this the week you let us know what you want to see from your community forum, whether you like what you’re seeing now or not.

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