With all due respect to Punxsutawney Phil, today is more than Groundhog Day.

This year, Feb. 2 is National Buy a Newspaper Day: an imperative that’s grown out of a Web post by a 24-year-old reporter in Alaska worried about who will be left as watchdogs if newspapers keep fading from local landscapes.

Yes, folks, this is a reach into your pocket – a brassy one, and on a Monday, too. But our cause is decent, so take a few seconds to hear us out.

Today we want you to go out, buy a copy of a newspaper you like for a friend or neighbor or take the time to discover another newsprint brand for yourself. We’re not fussy about the paper or papers you choose. And we’re keeping our fingers crossed that you enjoy something about the experience with whatever you pick up. Repeat buys would be a good thing.

Keeping our industry alive in a tough economy is a team sport, so as much as we appreciate support of our fearlessly spunky suburban and city neighborhood weeklies, we’re happy to recommend finding local weeklies, such as The Chicago Defender, and the ever-present big-city dailies, too.

If you prefer tabloids for your commute, remember we’ve got two in Chicago to invest in now. The Trib can be as easy to tote on the el as the Sun-Times is. Today’s issues are fine, indeed, but heck – splurge for the fatter Sunday papers. In the Trib, you’ll get a profile of the new governor. And in the Sun-Times, Mark Brown’s reflections-on-an-impeachment column packs one of his best closing paragraphs ever.

If national broadsheets are more your style, then go for those today’s collector’s issues of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal – with football photos leading each front page. The “Bad News” editorial in the Journal is a particularly good read.

Whether you pick up one or several of these papers, what we hope you’ll get is the intensity of the gray – that murky realm between black and white that comes clear only after someone’s dug deep into the details. The black and the white of a situation are so gettable they crowd the Web on many a site hosted by citizen media makers, some of whom are good, but most are not journalists – nor journalists with gatekeepers. The gray’s the thing. And the news organizations that care to vet it – in print and online – are the real deal.

So today, plunk down a quarter or three, or a buck or two, and stand up for what’s real.

Helen Karakoudas

Managing Editor

Austin Weekly News