THIS week, it transpires, is my 100th column for the Salisbury Journal. I was surprised, too, to discover this, though long-suffering readers might feel as though I’ve been writing this stuff for much longer than that.

In terms of the opinion pages, I am still very much the junior partner, with my esteemed colleagues Annie Riddle and Martin Field having written far longer for the Journal. I can only hope some of their qualities will eventually rub off on me: for now, like Annie, I have started to wonder where I put my glasses.

Local newspapers are important. They play a crucial, democratic role in holding local government to account, protecting and championing the communities they write about. They offer a space for local people, and local issues, to be heard.

But it’s a challenging time for the industry: the long-standing business model of funding local journalism through advertising is breaking down. Last month, Johnston Press, which owns 200 regional titles (the Journal is owned by rival group Newsquest) went into administration with debts of £220 million.

Different schemes are being trialled to counter all this: the BBC is funding 150 ‘local democracy reporters’ to be shared among regional news organisations: Facebook, arguably responsible for the current situation, has offered £4.5 million to train 80 community reporters.

One of the things I’ve learned writing this column is just how many people still read the Salisbury Journal. Whether it’s parents in the playground or shop assistants at the supermarket, people recognise your face through the paper, and stop you to talk about this article or that column.

Maybe it’s something to do with the size of Salisbury – small enough to cohere while large enough to make it viable – but unlike some places, our local newspaper feels firmly embedded in the city and the lives of those who live here. Long may that continue.

What I’ve also discovered from writing this column is just how much the city has to offer. I’ve lived in Salisbury for sixteen years, but in many ways, it is only in the last couple that I feel I have really got to know the place.

One of the great things about writing this column is getting to meet all those who make up this city – over the last two years, I’ve interviewed poets, playwrights, authors, activists, artists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, foodies, brewers, musicians, and more.

People sometimes talk down Salisbury, but talking to such people shows to me that there is a rich, vibrant, creative community here, underpinned by passionate individuals with the city’s best interests at heart.

I feel fortunate to have such people to meet and write about, and a column in which to do so.