The Journal is five years old. How did that happen?

A new newspaper? Isn’t a print newspaper a dinosaur in the digital age?

With that provocative question, a group of local dreamers with a plan got together five years ago this week and launched the first edition of The Sarnia Journal.

Yes, there were doubters. A free community weekly in an age of rapidly downsizing newspapers is a crazy idea, right?

And make no mistake; the industry is in trouble, hollowed out by declining circulation, layoffs and a flight of advertising revenue to online sources.

But we believed – correctly, as it turns out – that Sarnians would embrace a local publication that gave readers and advertisers something valuable — lively and fact-based reporting offering insight into the community we call home.

A market research study conducted in Sarnia last May found 74% of residents read The Journal on a weekly basis.

Despite what you hear, people have not stopped reading newspapers, though they do access them online more.

And despite what you hear, people don’t get their news from social media. Twitter and Facebook are great at sharing stories, but the news you read and share in your feed was created by journalists.

The Journal is produced exclusively by and for the people of Sarnia, Bright’s Grove, Point Edward and Corunna each week, and extends into the county in a once-a-month Lambton edition.

We are wholly independent and locally owned. We aren’t beholden to the whims of a Toronto head office. We have fun. We work hard.

The first edition arrived in mailboxes five years ago as a free publication, supported entirely by advertising, and it remains so to this day.

To the oft-asked question, yes, the paper will continue to be free.

But we, like everyone else, enjoy getting paid. So if you wish to support this newspaper then support its advertisers, the ones who pay the bills.

When an ad for a business or non-profit agency works, tell them, reaffirming their decision to spend precious marketing dollars in our community. It’s a win-win-win, for the newspaper, the reader and the advertiser.

And it’s a win for City Hall and senior government. Online ad platforms like Google and Facebook not based in Canada do not pay taxes, despite getting rich by sharing the content newspapers pay to produce.

That first edition also contained a mission statement, of sorts:

“Our goal is to reflect what’s happening here each week. We will report it factually, fairly and with compassion. We take a positive approach to our community, and do so unapologetically. But we won’t shy away from the tough stuff, either.”

Today, five years later, we hope we have lived up to that commitment.

The community’s response was and remains overwhelming. We are reminded daily Journal readers are lively and engaged. They provide story ideas and tips, write letters and share team photos, and they’re very direct about telling us when we mess up.

Because of that ongoing support The Sarnia Journal is very much alive and well and kicking.

And ready for the next five years.