Lately I've been thinking about the "local movement" here in Eau Claire.

Local musicians. Local artists. Local authors. Local businesses. Local food. The list goes on and on — if something is produced locally, we support it.

It's what we do in a town like Eau Claire, and it's one of the many ways we're special. The way we see it, if we love our community as much as we say we do, we should support the food, art and other goods fellow community members work so hard to make.

Although I support the movement 100 percent, and try to fiscally support any local business or artist whose work I admire when I can, I see something that is often forgotten: Our local newspaper. 

Until my friend Christie one day made the connection between this "local movement" to supporting a local newspaper, I hadn't really thought of it that way. 

But she's right.

The truth is, newspapers are more than just a community business, making them even more important to support. Newspapers serve as a pillar of our democracy. Newspapers are vital to telling our community's story. Newspapers can give voice to the voiceless.

Newspapers need and deserve the same financial support that other local businesses, musicians and artists do.

The Leader-Telegram isn't "money hungry," as some commenters on our Facebook have insisted since the newspaper's announcement that we will no longer be providing our digital content for free.

To tell you the truth, we are fighting to survive in a world where newspapers can no longer be financially sustainable just by selling ads, and it seems the value of news has been forgotten or abandoned somewhere along the way.

All newspapers — even the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today — are emphasizing digital subscriptions above all else, insisting that increasing digital subscriptions will be the key to this business's survival.

Like artists, musicians and business owners, journalists pursue a career in this field because we are passionate and believe society can benefit from what we do. 

We aspire to save the world in our own way by shining a light in dark places. We dream of the day we pull an "All the President's Men" or "Spotlight" and do our part in holding the powerful accountable.

By no means are reporters or editors perfect — journalism isn't an exact science. But we do the best we can to write and report the most accurate, balanced, truthful "first rough draft of history," as Washington Post editor Phil Graham once said. 

Still, somehow we forget them. We undervalue them. We refuse to invest in them. The minute that became clear to me was when UW-Eau Claire pulled its collegiate readership program, as many other colleges across the United States have done.

That's a shame in my view. College is the place that expands your worldview the most out of any other; the place that introduces you to adulthood and shapes you into the person you're going to be.

During my last semester at UW-Eau Claire, I took a sociology course. One day, I remember our professor asked us, "Who reads the news every day?" 

Of the crammed lecture hall, me and about 10 others raised our hands. That's out of the 100-plus people sitting in that room. 

Without being able to snag a copy of the Leader-Telegram, the Times or USA Today every morning from racks across campus, students may not get exposure to the routine of keeping up with the news daily. Who will these students become as what I like to call "real adults"?

Don't get me wrong, this isn't all the university's fault. But it's an alarming trend in society that we don't seem to value journalism and news unless it's free.

Will our future children learn the value of quality, responsible journalism if they grow up with parents who look to Facebook and other social media for their news, on the basis that it's free? 

It's time we all step up today and support local newspapers while they're still around.

Contact: 715-833-9206, samantha.west@ecpc.com, @SamanthaWest196 on Twitter