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I met a guy at a Christmas party last week who’s lived in the Valley for decades and witnessed huge changes over the years.

When he found out I was editor of the Register he told me an interesting thing.

“We just started subscribing,” he said. “I don’t know why we didn’t before.”

Thanks for doing that, I said.

“I told my wife that local journalism is important and if we didn’t subscribe, the Register might not be around,” he said.

While there is no danger that the Register will fold anytime soon, in the big picture he’s exactly right.

People tend to think that their local newspaper is an eternal institution, like a mountain or a river or a big downtown building that will never go away.

But in reality, we’re just like your local restaurant, bookstore, hardware store or cinema — if you don’t spend money in these places, they will go away eventually.

Across the country in the last decade, more than 1,000 newspapers have gone under, merged, or gutted themselves to the point of irrelevance.

Those communities are now what researchers call “news deserts,” and there is good evidence that without local journalists watching and informing the public, taxes in those places rise, corruption and crime flourish, and rumor becomes rampant.

We’re fortunate in Napa to have a robust economy and a supportive readership, so the Register is in decent shape, but the lesson of our era is that we can never take for granted that our local news organization is forever.

Carefully unfolding the front pages, examining them, passing them around the table, and discussing the stories is a throwback to an earlier era, when that’s the only way anyone experienced our news. It feels delightful to get ink on my fingers and smell the paper and ink up close.

That’s where our readers come in. If you are a subscriber, it is you that is keeping this organization alive. And we need ever more readers to realize that journalism matters and step up to support the cause.

If you’re not a subscriber, please consider joining up in this effort to keep local journalism alive. We have a wide variety of subscription offers for all budgets, from a few dollars per month for basic access, to the premium packages that some of you have, which include extra content, offers from national and local retailers and other perks.

New members may sign up here: napavalleyregister.com/members/join.

For those of you who have already joined us, we so appreciate your support every day. Please encourage others to become members and help the Register flourish for decades to come.

Sean Scully's top 5 most memorable stories of 2019

We've done a lot of good work over the past year, so picking the most memorable can be tough, but here are the ones that stand out in my mind for various reasons.

We highlighted the stories of 10 Napa County residents who served their country in the military, with stories of courage and perseverance.

For the one-year anniversary of the Pathway Home shooting in Yountville, we examined what it meant to the community and survivors.

Reporter Courtney Teague took a deep dive into our housing crunch, looking at its effects on physical and mental health of area residents.

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You can reach Sean Scully at 256-2246 or sscully@napanews.com.

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Editor

Sean has been editor of the Napa Valley Register since April of 2014. His previous credits include the Press Democrat, The Weekly Calistogan, The Washington Times and Time and People magazines.