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In a series of conversations we’ve been having with readers recently, one thing has come through loud and clear: For many of you, The Press Democrat is a key part of your daily life. It is a part of your morning routine, a familiar and trusted news source. It’s increasingly a part of the time you spend with a computer, tablet or smartphone — particularly when news is breaking.

We heard that you love the local news and sports, the distinctive voices of our columnists, the letters to the editor, and even the little reader-submitted photo that runs each day on the weather page. You can’t get enough (or enough coverage) of local food, wine and beer.

Our photography is not only eye-catching, it often moves you — the most recent example being the dramatic coverage of the Valley fire.

We started meeting with readers this fall to discuss some possible changes to the newspaper, and now we would like to invite you to join the conversation.

To take a survey about what you value most in The Press Democrat, click here.

As we greeted about 60 readers at a series of roundtable discussions about possible changes to the newspaper, many were apprehensive. Some feared a radical change — aware that newspapers across the country are threatened by declining readership and advertising revenue, some even cutting the print edition altogether on certain days of the week.

Don’t worry. We’re not cutting publication days. While we continue to enjoy one of the best rates of local household readership of any newspaper in California, reader habits are changing and we need to change with them.

We’ve spent several months studying ways to make the newspaper more relevant to our community while making sure the costs of producing our news report are in line with the revenues coming into our business.

Here is what we’ve concluded:

Our purpose is to enhance public understanding of the communities we serve in the heart of Sonoma County by being the most trusted source of high-quality news and the primary forum for the free exchange of ideas.

We want to be known for watchdog reporting that holds public figures accountable; for coverage of local food, wine and beer; for coverage of the environment and the outdoors; for coverage of housing; and for unforgettable photography.

While readers expect many things from The Press Democrat, they come to us primarily for our local news report. We should emphasize local, Bay Area and state news — starting in the first section of the newspaper. At the same time, we should trim incremental national and world stories, while understanding many readers still turn to us for a comprehensive report that includes deep reporting and analysis of national and world events.

We want more stories about people — local heroes, community icons and those who make this a unique place. We want to reflect more points of view and the experiences of a diverse population.

We need to increase our digital content and find innovative ways to tell stories with new technology.

To do all of these things means we’ll also have to make some tough choices — for instance, reducing some coverage of routine news in outlying areas. We’ll probably have smaller print editions some days and fewer wire services, but a stronger focus on local news. We have outlined some of our ideas to four representative groups. But before we make any final decisions, we’d like to hear from more of you.

This month marks three years since The Press Democrat was returned to local ownership with Sonoma Media Investments. All of us here want to ensure that our newspaper and our news report continue to remain essential to this community we all call home. And we’d like your help with that. If you have additional thoughts, please email us at TellUs@pressdemocrat.com or write us at Reader Survey, The Press Democrat, 427 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa 95401.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Catherine Barnett, Executive Editor

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Please note: In earlier versions of the survey, the zip code field was not working properly. The error has been fixed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

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