We’ve been hearing the same narrative for years: Newspapers are dead.

If our event earlier this month — and our growing online readership — prove anything, it’s that the narrative is false.

This newspaper recently reached a milestone: 50 years in business. That means that, as Jerry Schalow, president and CEO of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce noted, the paper goes back further than the chamber and the city of Rio Rancho itself.

Additionally, turnout for the ribbon-cutting and anniversary celebration had so many people turn out there was hardly room to move around our new office, with many more mingling outside. Attendees included representatives from Sandoval County, members and staff from the chamber, state legislators and more. Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent Sue Cleveland even took the time out on the first day of school to attend the celebration.

Additionally, several of those leaders, and others, have spoken about the importance of local journalism:
• “You always get it right … We really appreciate what you do for our community. We need more of this kind of messaging out there. Good, objective truth.” (Deputy County Manager John Garcia)

• “The impact that this community is having on the entire state of New Mexico is because of the stories you tell.” (Schalow)• “We so much appreciate your voice to extend our voices in the community.” (Sandoval County Commission Chair Dave Heil)

• Thank you guys for being such a vital part of our community for 50 years now and great job on keeping it going. We’ll see you for 50 more.” (state Rep. Joshua Hernandez)

• “The Rio Rancho Observer is our local Fourth Estate, holding elected officials accountable, telling the story of our community, and sharing the news of what’s happening in the city we all love.” (Hernandez)

• “The Observer has played a very important role in helping to tell the Rio Rancho story … Without the Observer, Rio Rancho’s story may not have been told.” (Mayor Gregg Hull)

• “The Observer does an incredible job telling the stories of the third-largest and fastest-growing city in New Mexico … It is a newspaper that welcomes citizen input and is viewed across the state as what journalism should be, a truth teller.” (Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block)

Not only is the newspaper valued by community leaders, which was echoed by the large turnout Aug. 3, but research shows communities suffer without a local newspaper.

According to a piece published on usnewsdeserts.com, “A 2011 report by the Federal Communications Commission found that local newspapers are the best medium to provid the sort of public service journalism that shines a light on the major issues confronting communities and gives residents the information they need to solve their problems,” further stating that the communities and vitality of local news are “intrinsically linked.”

The article also states, “Numerous government and foundation studies have found that for a community to reach its full potential, it must be civically healthy and inclusive. Economists call public service journalism a ‘public good’ because the information conveyed through news stories help guide decision-making in our society.”

A healthy journalistic presence also serves as a vital watchdog for communities. With a commitment to ensuring open records practices are followed by government entities, attending public meetings and asking the tough questions, corruption is much harder to hide. That is why we are called the Fourth Estate — diligent journalists serve as an independent check and balance on government.

So please, continue to read. And when someone tells you newspapers are dead, tell them they are wrong. The way we tell stories may be shifting, but we’re still here. Support local journalism; we need you, and you need us.