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Editorial: Helping to shape, define our community

The National Newspaper Association finished a readership survey in 2013. The gist was that even in the electronic/digital age, two-thirds of small-town residents rely on their local paper for news and advertising information.

The survey noted this reliance continues even as more readers use mobile devices to shop, read and communicate — 39% say they use smartphones to access local news.

Newspaper websites, the survey found, remained the leading provider of local news, followed distantly by an area TV station and national online aggregators such as Google and Yahoo.

NNA President Robert M. Williams Jr., publisher of the Blackshear Times in Georgia, said research consistently shows community papers are the dominant local news medium.

“We know that it is very difficult for a good community to survive without a good newspaper and vice versa,” Williams said. “The high levels of trust, the consistent pass-along rate and the desire to find the newspaper in whatever medium wishes to use — whether mobile, print or web — demonstrate the value of good community journalism.”

As a community paper, the River Falls Journal’s coverage is vast: Up-and-coming businesses, new businesses and the accomplishments of business leaders and employees; political races for mayor, city council, town, county and school boards; new housing developments; major road and highway projects; exposing a rural intersection safety problem; weather-related frozen pipe leaks and other havoc caused by major storms; school bomb threat; university and technical college happenings; obituaries; wedding and anniversary announcements; police, fire and court news; events like Community Education’s Daddy Daughter Dance and the upcoming Chamber of Commerce-sponsored St. Patrick’s Day on Main Street; sporting milestones like the girls Fusion hockey team going to state or a local speedskater again reaching the Winter Olympics; the school district’s new eSchool; the firefighter of the year; local authors and their new books or recording artists and their new CDs — all this and more, week after week in print, and hour by hour online. That’s what you find in your local paper, the Journal.

Major news outlets, especially in the Twin Cities, swoop in when there’s high drama or human tragedy, like the 2012 Schauffhausen triple murders, but then move on to search elsewhere. The Journal, the local paper, stays behind to cover the local news — from the provocative to the more mundane.

We’d like to think that recognition from peers during the annual Wisconsin Newspaper Association contest shows we’re on the right track. The Journal often is ranked near the top, even at the very top, among Wisconsin weeklies in WNA’s all-important General Excellence category.

The range of news that we cover, including the partial and ever-changing list above, is what helps to shape and define the community we call River Falls. As we go along, we keep turning the page to see what the shape of our community becomes next.

Thanks to those of you who keep turning the pages with us.