From the first edition of the Petaluma Weekly Journal published on Aug. 18, 1855 up to, and including, this latest edition of the Petaluma Argus-Courier, this newspaper has remained committed to excellence in serving the Petaluma community.

Over the last century and a half, the newspaper has had several names, different owners, many publishers and editors and many more reporters, advertising account managers, production staff and distribution workers, including hundreds of paper boys and girls. Ownership has changed, office locations have changed and technology has changed. What has not changed has been the staff's continuing dedication and commitment to producing high quality community journalism.

When the newspaper was purchased in 2001 by The New York Times Company, the new owners wisely provided the Argus-Courier with the journalistic autonomy, along with some shared resources with our sister newspaper, the Press Democrat, to give readers an even better hometown newspaper. Since that time, the Argus-Courier's ability to provide award-winning journalism has been enhanced, while its capacity to serve the advertising needs of local businesses has been expanded through the launch of a website, petaluma360.com, that attracts a growing audience eager to catch breaking news, look at photo galleries and videos, participate in discussion forums and enjoy blogger commentaries.

But much has changed in the newspaper industry over the last 10 years and, along with the severe economic downturn, it is time for The New York Times Company to refocus on its core mission of publishing a national newspaper and website. For that reason, the Petaluma Argus-Courier and Press Democrat are poised to be sold to Halifax Media Group, owners of the Daytona Beach News-Journal in Florida. Little is known, as yet, about the prospective owners' plans, but we remain hopeful they will seek to carry on the tradition of professionally serving this community's news, advertising and information needs.

While a newspaper is a business, it's also a public trust. As such, this newspaper and website are an open forum for diverse opinions, a mirror reflecting back the community's strengths and weaknesses, its hopes and dreams, its successes and failures.

Community newspapers like the Petaluma Argus-Courier represent a longstanding American tradition encompassing the free exchange of local news, ideas and opinions aimed at ensuring an informed populace that is well equipped to build strong, healthy communities.

Like other newspapers, the Argus-Courier thrives because of the shared commitment of its staff and the active and involved residents and businesses that we serve. Our primary responsibility is delivering fair, accurate and thorough reporting on local news. Underscoring that commitment are consecutive first place awards for general excellence among all mid-sized weekly newspapers in California that the newspaper earned in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Through our reporting, we've endeavored to spotlight community problems and the solutions proposed to fix them. And we've brought attention to and recognized the many contributions of people and organizations that make Petaluma a truly terrific community in which to live and work.

The dedication of our staff would mean nothing were it not for you, the many thousands of Petaluma Argus-Courier readers who are passionate about and engaged with your community. It is our readers, after all, who give us direction on what news to cover.

Playing an equally critical role are the Argus-Courier's advertising partners, without whom we simply would not exist. The advertising messages from local businesses help to sustain and underwrite the award-winning journalism.

As 2011 comes to a close, we want to thank all our employees for their hard work and commitment to excellence, our advertisers for utilizing the newspaper and website to grow their businesses, and our readers for maintaining a strong interest in making their community the best it can be.

You are, after all, the reason we're here.