By Tom Ehrich

A word – with not a hint of nostalgia – about newspapers.

As a child, I sat on the heat register each morning and devoured The Indianapolis Star. In college I discovered The New York Times. I worked one college summer for The Indianapolis News and another for The Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette.

After college and graduate journalism school, I joined the reporting staff of The Wall Street Journal, in the hard-news era before Rupert Murdoch trashed the Journal.

Wherever we have lived, we have depended on the local paper to keep us informed. I have written a nationally syndicated newspaper column since 1997.

I believe a free press is the foundation of democracy. It pains me to see newspapers fold, as their failed business model catches up with them. But I also know that the heart of a free press isn’t ink on paper. It’s reporters and writers who dig deep, write the truth as best they can, keep the powerful honest, give the oppressed a voice, refuse to be silenced by threat or by payola, and keep covenant with the people.

Local print newspapers aren’t likely to be around for long. Failed business models rarely turn around, because their custodians lack the vision and courage to take meaningful risks. It could be that most news reading goes online, and we end up with a few national online papers like The New York Times covering world, national and local news, while an army of bloggers and tweeters provide information and opinion, some of it quite reliable.

I do know this: We will have news. We will have information. We will have facts. A free people depend on it.