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At least once a month a well-meaning friend or acquaintance will take me aside and ask with a grim look on his or her face, “So, how’s it going at the newspaper?” I assume my questioner is expecting a negative response and that’s why he or she is talking to me like I just lost my favorite pet.

When I reply that things are good and getting better every month, I often get a look of surprise or non-belief. I must constantly remind my friends and family members that despite what they’ve heard in the national media, newspapers aren’t dead yet — and, in fact, local papers like the Journal are actually thriving in this economy.

I have research to back this up: In the Pew Research Center’s “The State of the News Media 2012” it was reported that newspapers are still the primary source people turn to for news about government and civic affairs.

The Pew Research Center’s findings are not surprising to me. Where else can people in the Turlock area read about what happened at the City Council, local Little League game and church centennial celebration?

As I have often said (and written), newspapers bring neighbors together and make our ever-digital world feel like a real community. If you don’t believe me, then try out this experiment: The next time you travel to a new town spend a day just driving around to get a feel for the place. The next day, pick up the local newspaper. I guarantee that you will instantly feel more connected to the town and have a better understanding of where to go and what to do after reading the local paper.

This instant connection to the community is what we strive for here at the Journal. Along with fostering a since of community, we also want to provide the information people look for in their media. Ask why people still pick up a newspaper and the answer might surprise you — because they like to read.

 The Journal is making a few changes in the coming weeks that will provide more lifestyle, entertainment, health, people and cooking stories for you to enjoy.

Starting July 14, USA Weekend will be inserted in the Saturday Journal. USA Weekend is a national magazine that focuses on social issues, entertainment, health, food and travel.

Starting July 18, the Wednesday Journal will always include American Profile magazine, a publication that features people and places across the nation. The first Wednesday of every month, Relish magazine will tempt our readers with stories on all things food — and, of course, a plethora of recipes.

Look inside the Journal the second Wednesday of every month for Spry magazine and get all the latest information on living and eating healthy.

These upcoming changes are exciting for us at the Journal because we can still focus on providing the best local news and sports, while also giving our readers a broader range of information on topics that affect their lives.

If you are not a subscriber to the Journal — and, I assume, are reading this online or stole your neighbor’s paper (shame on you!) — then now’s the time to get connected with your community. Call 634-9141 and get signed up today!

This column is the opinion of Kristina Hacker and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.