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It was a gloomy night last night with a misty rain, but over 900 people braved the weather to come celebrate the 200-year anniversary of the first issue of the Arkansas Gazette newspaper, the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River. Now the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the newspaper is still going strong with some modifications, and staff, friends and supporters of the newspaper flocked to the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock to show their support.

It was quite an event.

We were welcomed by Rex Nelson,

and we heard from Ernie Dumas, Eliza Hussman Gaines and publisher Walter Hussman

before Mack McClarty introduced the guest of honor President Bill Clinton.

President Clinton talked about the importance of newspapers and accurate, in-depth information. It was a great way to start the next 200 years of this wonderful newspaper.

I think many of us take the newspaper for granted. Everyone is aware that printed newspapers are disappearing across our country. People want instant gratification and many get their news in 2 minute sound-bites, or from Twitter or Facebook, but is that news accurate and are you getting the in-depth information you need to be informed? Anyone can post information on the web, whether it is true or not, and I am not saying that all of the news you see on-line is made up--all newspapers today have an on-line version or online features.

The New York Times had an interesting article in August of this year title "A Future Without a Front Page". Just a few pertinent facts from the article are: "today there are about 6,800 local newspapers (daily and weekly) operating in our country, but most have cut back significantly". (In 1970 there were 1,748 daily newspapers in our country and today less than 1,300 are still producing a daily paper). Another point made was "over the last 15 years, about 2,100 local newspapers have either merged with a competitor or ceased printing." And circulation is also down, "since 2004, total circulation of dailies and weeklies has declined to about 70 million readers from what was 122 million readers." Yet we still need to know what is happening in our communities and country, and a newspaper is more relevant now than ever.

Many newspapers have gone to digital newspapers and have urged their readers to read it on their own computers. Walter Hussman has taken it to the next level and has given his customers a free iPad to read the paper online every day of the week, with a printed paper only on Sunday's. This service started in the northeast part of the state and is gradually being implemented statewide. While many have been skeptical and miss the "feel" of the paper, I predict once people really try it, they will like it. I have been reading the paper on line for years, since I traveled so much. Our 92 year old aunt didn't think she would be able to use an iPad, but she has adapted and likes it now. The pictures are so much clearer and there are more of them to see (and they are all in color). You can also change the font and make it larger which makes it easier to read for some.

Change can be hard, but it can also be a good thing. Support your local reporters and photographers who work hard every day to give you the news. Subscribe to the newspaper. You won't be disappointed.

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