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With all due respect to Punxsutawney Phil, today is more than Groundhog Day.

This year, Feb. 2 is National Buy a Newspaper Day: an imperative that’s grown out of a Web post by a 24-year-old reporter in Alaska worried about who will be left as watchdogs if newspapers keep fading from local landscapes.

Yes, folks, this is a reach into your pocket – a brassy one, and on a Monday morning, too. But our cause is decent, so take a few seconds to hear us out.

Even if you already subscribe to one of our papers, today we want you to go out, buy a copy for a friend or take the time to discover another newsprint brand for yourself. We’re not fussy about the paper or papers you choose. And we’re keeping our fingers crossed that you enjoy something about the experience with whatever you pick up. Repeat buys would be a good thing.

If you know us for the Review, keep in mind that we’ve also got papers in Oak Park and River Forest and in Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield.

Stop by our office at 141 S. Oak Park Ave. in Oak Park if you’d like to see one of these papers or to discover any of our city papers. We have a paper in Austin plus five along the lakefront.

Three of our five lakefront weeklies have a column by gossip diva Ann Gerber. Along with the latest in aldermanic news from the South Loop to Rogers Park, all the lakefront papers have a New York Times crossword puzzle and photos of pets to adopt from two of the city’s largest shelters. If you frequent or know of anyone who lives in Lincoln Park, Lake View, Edgewater, Uptown, North Center Ravenswood, Old Town, Roscoe Village, the Gold Coast, Streeterville, Bucktown, River North, Wicker Park, the West Loop or Ukrainian Village, you need one of these papers. All our suburban papers and two of our city papers are a dollar each. The others are free.

Keeping our industry alive in a tough economy is a team sport, so as much as we appreciate support of our fearlessly spunky suburban and city neighborhood weeklies, we’re happy to recommend big-city dailies, too:

If you prefer tabloids for your commute, remember we’ve got two in Chicago to invest in now. The Trib can be as easy to tote on the el as the Sun-Times is. And as always, columnists in each justify the cover price. In today’s Sun-Times, Mark Brown’s reflections-on-an-impeachment column packs one of his best closing paragraphs ever. For Washington pundits, the Trib’s John Kass serves up a signature heads-up about the Chicago way with public money on concrete and asphalt.

If national broadsheets are more your style, then go for those collector’s issues of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal – with football photos leading each front page. The “Bad News” editorial in today’s Journal is a particularly good read.

Whether you pick up one or all of these papers, what we hope you’ll get is the intensity of the gray – that murky realm between black and white that comes clear only after someone’s dug deep into the details. The black and the white of a situation are so gettable they crowd the Web on many a site hosted by citizen media makers, but not journalists. The gray’s the thing, and the news organizations that care to vet it – in print and online – are the real deal.

So today, plunk down a quarter or three, or a buck or two, and stand up for what’s real.

Helen Karakoudas
Managing Editor
Forest Park Review/Chicago Journal