I want to speak to the part of our readership who still prefer to hold the newsprint in their hands

Change is inevitable. Life has surely taught us that nothing stays the same.

This week it was officially announced that The Augusta Gazette, The Andover American, and the El Dorado Tmes are merging.

The vision has been laid out and will prove to keep the newspaper relevant.

By now we know all the reasons why and they definitely make sense. I'm a team player. I'm on board. I'm grateful to have a job. I'm excited about the new product and how much bigger and better it will be.

I have always credited The Augusta Gazette and The El Dorado Times for awakening my love of journalism. I spent parts of my childhood in both communities.

Then why am I sad? Why does it feel like I'm saying goodbye to a dear old friend?

I embrace the technology that we use in the newspaper world each day. I'm fully aware of the importance of driving our product on-line and on Facebook for a large part of our audience. The merger will most likely not affect what our on-line readers think or how they read our product.

I want to speak to the other part of our readership - those who still prefer to hold the newsprint in their hands. Like me, you enjoy grabbing that paper from the porch, peeling off the rubber band and sitting down to enjoy a leisurely read. Perhaps, even reading something twice and catching another look at the photos.

I know you are hesitant in letting go of the Augusta Gazette and subscribing to a county-wide paper. I understand.

I wish so badly that I could have just one more chat with Carter - that he could reassure me with his no-nonsense, get-the-job-done wisdom. He'd be telling me to look ahead and do the best job I can do to get the news out. But I'm also confident that he'd be telling me to never forget where we've been.

It is no secret that I relish the time I spend each week scrolling through the yellowed newsprint full of stories about our community and its residents.

I feel as if I know the local families, who during the dark days of WWII  sent their sons and husbands off to fight the enemy in far away places. I enjoy the news from the soldiers sent to Bert Shore and the Gazette readers. And my heart aches when I come across the sad reports of Augusta boys missing in action or those who came home in flag-draped caskets. The entire community rallied behind the families to remind them that they were not alone. Augusta was close-knit and everyone took care of one another.

I cherish the opportunity to remember someone no longer here, but is recalled through a photo or print. So many colorful and wonderful people are part of our stories. Stories that are still alive in the Gazette archives. I feel honored to share a portion with you each week.

The Gazette has been penned to provide a historical record. The stories offer a powerful reminder that the role of a journalist is not just to inform the community, but to create the first draft of history.

It's a big responsibility and the Gazette has been fortunate for over 120 years to have had a number of journalists who have taken that responsibility seriously.

We hope the history we've documented will be a large part of the Gazette's legacy.

Thank you. Thank you for reading this paper year after year, for offering story ideas, for sharing your experiences and opinions as sources in the thousands and thousands of articles that have been printed during this paper's run. Thank you for writing letters praising or criticizing our work. It meant you were reading. Thank you for being part of a local news enterprise that has maintained the desire to bring you the news. Thank you, also, to Gazette advertisers, who invested their hard-earned dollars in our pages and thereby supported our mission of local reporting and serving Augusta.

To those who are reluctant to embrace a new county-wide paper, I ask that you give us a chance and to keep an open mind. We'll still be here and what made the old Gazette special will be a part of the new product. That's a promise.

The spirit of the Gazette will live on in those of us who have written in these pages and in anyone else who shares the belief that local journalism is a critical public service.

The Gazette's ending is the beginning of a new chapter in the annals of local media. The Butler County Times-Gazette will be a great product. I'm looking forward to seeing it unfold.

Belinda Larsen is the Augusta City Editor for the new Butler County Times-Gazette. She can be reached at: blarsen@butlercountytimesgazette.com