[a followup to yesterday’s column]
I have always loved newspapers, and still receive the print edition of the New York Times at home. It remains a great paper, with plenty of compelling content to page through each day, and I appreciate the effort of all the people whose efforts get it to me. I’m not speaking of the journalists who create the content, but the personnel who literally bring me the paper.
In my youth, I delivered the afternoon newspaper in our apartment complex after school, with two baskets attached to the back of my bicycle. I enjoyed my role in distributing information to the masses, although I always hated collection day, when I’d have to knock on all those doors to collect 55¢ for a week’s worth of papers. Many times, there was no one home and I’d have to make a return trip or add it to the next week’s bill — or worse, I’d be greeted by the loud growl and bark of a tenant’s dog, which never failed to scare the crap out of me.
There are no more afternoon print editions, so the delivery job now belongs to adults who work in the middle of the night to pick up the papers from the local distributor, who had them trucked in from the local printing plant, where someone had to keep the ink and paper flowing amidst the noise of those giant presses. Then the delivery guy has to bag them and spend a couple of hours driving in the dark to toss the papers into driveways and stuff them into slots and fill those sidewalk coin-operated vending boxes, all before the rest of the world wakes up. I’ve come home from many late-night poker sessions to find the paper sitting in my driveway at 4am and said a silent “thank you” to whoever our delivery person is (I’ve never actually seen him/her).
In a world of free information everywhere, the cost of gathering the news and physically handing it to the end-user is an incredibly old-fashioned and very expensive way to tell people what’s going on their world. Publishers are struggling with this dilemma every day.
They can hear the dog barking on the other side of the door and it’s scaring them, too.