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Other View: A world without newspapers? Be serious

Today's front page has no news on it. Subscribers already know that, of course, because it's quite possible they gasped when they unfurled this edition on their doorstep.

For those shocked or disappointed, let that feeling sink in, because this is what would exist every day in a city without a newspaper.

Today, more than 200 newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota are leaving their front pages blank, free of words, stories, photos or news. The effort is being held in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, and the idea is to bring attention to the value of local journalism and the work that goes into producing it.

We hear all the time how the newspaper must serve as the watchdog for our community and region. Journalists take that role seriously. Imagine what it would be like without a newspaper keeping watch. Where would residents turn to for reliable information? Facebook? Twitter? Snapchat?

Be serious.

We all know those sites are great for sharing photos and family anecdotes, but they cannot compete with a local newspaper for sound professional journalism and advertising trustworthiness. Where do you think their news comes from?

According to the marketing and research institute MarketingSherpa, print ads are the most trusted advertising channel when consumers want to make a purchase decision. A survey released in January asked 2,400 consumers what medium they trusted most when making a purchase decision. The top source, according to 82 percent of respondents, was newspapers and magazines.

So often, we hear this or that about the merits of social media, especially from advertisers who migrate there for cost savings. Whether it's advertising on that platform or so-called "news" on social media, we say this: You get exactly what you pay for.

Meanwhile, we also inevitably hear from so many people who ask us to look into suspected wrongdoing or to write about a child's great accomplishment or to spread the word about some expansion of a local business. And we do it. We do all those things because our goal is to chronicle the happenings of the community.

Even those who choose not to subscribe to this newspaper know where to find us. And they still look to us for vital community information when they need it.

We maintain a 24/7 website and also have a cost-friendly e-subscription program that looks just like our print version. And, yes, we even post news on social media.

Politicians and public speakers quote us, other media take from us, and coffee groups critique us — every single day.

If newspapers go away, who's going to expose possible corruption in City Hall or elsewhere? Who's going to alert residents about new taxes? Or explain confusing fiscal issues at the university? Or document public spending? Or follow the football team down the road?

Facebook?

While you contemplate our blank front page today, consider that.

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