Shop local. Eat local. Read local.

Maybe you’ve seen the advertisements promoting our newspaper. The message in the ads is straightforward — keep it local. That includes reading your local newspaper.

It is a timely reminder this week as the country observes the 81st annual National Newspaper Week, a celebration of the impact newspapers have on their communities.

The annual effort is sponsored by Newspaper Association Managers Inc., a consortium of North American trade associations representing the industry. This year’s theme is “Community Forum.” That’s exactly what good newspapers do — provide a community forum.

Today, more than 8,600 privately owned local newspapers are serving small-town America in remarkable ways. Their credibility creates a trusted community forum. They engage their readers in important local issues that impact their lives. With that power, citizens need less government.

We are one of the those locally owned and operated independent newspapers. We strive each and every week to create a vibrant community forum by providing accurate reporting. Our goal is to give our readers the information they need and want for their daily lives. It is the heart of our mission.

It is a critical mission. Abundant research shows that strong local journalism builds social cohesion, encourages political participation and improves the efficiency and decision-making of local and state government.

Coverage of local issues, committees and public and private groups, and even things like the printing of public notices, are extremely important because they provide a public record and encourage transparency.

It has been documented that when public officials and business leaders operate in the dark, bad things often happen.

A locally and independently owned newspaper answers to the community and its readers, not an outside owner such as a hedge fund or private equity fund, which has profits as its primary goal and little interest or commitment to the community being served.

Locally owned and operated newspapers are part of the foundation of any thriving community. But they are use-it-or-lose-it endeavors. If there isn’t participation from the community, there is no community forum. If readers don’t support their local newspaper, if they don’t engage, if they don’t take advantage of the community forum it provides, communities will not thrive.

That’s why we need you. Subscribe to our paper in print or online. Contact us with your story ideas. Challenge our reporters with hard questions that need answers, and critique us as to where we can do better. Write a letter to the editor. Suggest a profile of someone in our community who is making a difference. Patronize local advertisers, as they make it all possible.

Make our community forum better. Support local journalism. Read local.