God bless Al Cross. And Margaret O’Donnell.

Smack in the middle of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, someone I don’t know, but who is officially my hero, declared Subscription Sunday.

Al, the longtime Kentucky political reporter and columnist, UK professor and South Frankfort resident, gave it a plug on Twitter, where he has one of the largest followings of civic-minded Kentuckians. Margaret, a loyal State Journal reader, chimed in that she was buying subscriptions for three college-educated neighbors who hadn’t subscribed in years.

This publisher has a love-hate relationship with Twitter, but if #SubscriptionSunday becomes a thing, we’re here for it, as the kids would say.

Newspapers, more than ever, must have financial support from readers to survive. That might be news for the many people who read their hometown newspaper in a vacuum and see, for example, a thinner daily edition and five print issues instead of six as State Journal problems. In fact, the challenges are systemic and well documented as America’s retail economy, which fueled a very successful advertising-funded newspaper business model for a century, and the information marketplace have been disrupted by powerful forces.

Some 1,800 communities across the country have lost their newspaper entirely, according to the News Media Alliance, and the number of working journalists in this country is down 25% from a decade ago. That’s a weakened institution that historically has been a bedrock of democracy, holding leaders accountable and keeping residents informed about what’s happening in their communities. Some compelling recent studies show that communities see increased government costs as fewer journalists are watching. There’s also substantial evidence that journalism drives higher civic engagement, more voter participation and better support of charitable causes.

In other words, society has much at stake. As Al tweeted, newspapers are “the essential fact-finders, independent watchdogs and speakers of truth to power in our republic, if we can keep it.”

An interesting bill in Congress called the “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act” would force collective bargaining with newspapers by Facebook and Google, the duopoly that gets 70% of every online advertising dollar despite the fact that those ads are delivered mostly on news websites like State-Journal.com. The bill is gaining bipartisan support but faces a long road to passage, then likely years of litigation by plaintiffs with much deeper pockets than newspaper publishers’.

If you believe journalism is important, keep an eye on that bill, but don’t count on it as the savior. More impactful is to subscribe to this newspaper — or any other, for that matter. If you already subscribe, do what Margaret did and stuff your friend’s stocking with a gift subscription. A month of print delivery and 24-7 digital access is $15 — less these days than supper for two at many fast-food restaurants. A digital-only subscription, which includes an on-screen replica of the daily print edition, is even cheaper at $6.99 a month.

For price-sensitive consumers, we’ll have a one-day subscription sale this Wednesday: three months of print delivery for the price of one, or $4.99 a month for digital only.

We appreciate the support.

Steve Stewart is publisher of The State Journal. His email address is steve.stewart@state-journal.com.

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