There are more than a handful of jobs that have people out in the elements delivering packages, mail or newspapers door-to-door and, unless you have done one of those jobs, you can't truly appreciate its value. A newspaper carrier is one of those jobs.
There are more than a handful of jobs that have people out in the elements delivering packages, mail or newspapers door-to-door and, unless you have done one of those jobs, you can’t truly appreciate its value. A newspaper carrier is one of those jobs.
As you know, I work for the Crookston Daily Times as the assistant editor. You could say my main duties include writing, photography, traveling across town from event to event and interviewing people for stories. Those are the things that most people see when they see me “on the job.” What you might not know is that my daily duties include so much more than that.
When you read the newspaper, you usually start with the front or back page, right? You look to see who’s on the front cover or who is being featured in sports. My managing editor, Mike, who doesn’t like to be called my “boss” yet I still refer to him as such, is typically in charge of laying out and putting together the front page. When he’s gone, guess who has that job? Me. (Yes, he does sometimes take a day off.) Laying out and filling the front page is no easy task, especially when you have a daily deadline of 11 a.m. and there are a ton of things to get on there.
Here’s a quick and easy breakdown for you: Weather, ads, brief stories for the side, preview boxes and descriptions on top, screen photo behind our title, anywhere from three to seven stories (that may or may not be written the day of), and pictures with descriptions. Sound easy? Try doing it all in a few hours. And make it look nice. And easy to read. And that’s just the front page; there’s about 7-9 more to go. I typically fill two pages daily, put info in the calendar, type in the arrests, accidents and fire calls weekly (when we don’t have an intern), add stories to the classifieds page, put event pictures on our “wild” pages, put all of our stories and photos on our website (crookstontimes.com), assist with our social media posts, send and reply to emails, etc.
To be fair, there are some pages done the day before (thanks to Production/Design manager Lynn Oakes who designs 99 percent of our ads) but filling pages and finalizing the product is done the day of. There are many others that contribute to our success, too, like Classifieds manager Janelle Brekken who also sells ads, Advertising manager Calvin Anderson who is always on the go, Publisher Don Forney who also sells ads and keeps us all in line, and Circulation/Office manager Carl Melbye who is our rock (and he hands out the paychecks as well.) And then there’s Pam Johnson, who could be known as one of the hardest-working gals around. She is in our Circulation room and she prepares, organizes and gets all of the newspapers out the door to the carriers daily. And if there’s ever a mistake, she takes care of it. She’s been known to come in early and stay late. Pam will also deliver the paper right to your door if you were missed. And she fills in for anyone that calls in sick or if they don’t show up at all.
Finally, there’s sports. Luckily, we have a new sports editor, Nolan Beilstein, who has officially taken over, but before he got here Christopherson and I were splitting the duties of completing those pages as well.
So, where does the paper go after the pages are completed? It goes to the printing press in Thief River Falls and our main delivery guy, Nick Stroot, picks it up and brings it back to Crookston to be delivered and mailed out. He also picks up the weekend Shopper that is distributed to thousands of people. Once the paper arrives, it goes straight to the production/sorting room where Pam labels, organizes, folds and hands out to our carriers. I have been trained in to do part of Pam’s job if she ever needs to take a day off and, let me tell you, it’s not an easy one. There are people from all over the country that subscribe to our newspaper and there are very specific ways that the post office likes to have the papers that are mailed organized so when I fill in I must follow the instructions to a “T.” Not only that, but when the papers arrive, I have to quickly get the stacks out of the totes and get the early-arrived carriers with the bundles they need to deliver all over town. That includes, like I said before, labeling each one, counting out what each carrier needs, adding any notes that there might be such as when people go on vacation, putting newspapers out in the front office, putting a numbered amount of papers in our archives, and making sure to get the mailed papers to the post office in their special bags on time.
So, after all that, the carriers take the papers through town to be delivered. It’s typically after 2 p.m. when residents and businesses start to receive their daily “afternoon” paper. The carriers take their numbered (and labeled if they’re businesses) stacks and deliver door to door, walking on the streets and sidewalks, across yards, through the snow/sleet/rain/wind/heat/cold, just to make sure all of our beloved subscribers (really, subscribers, we thank you!) have their paper. Whether they drive their car, ride their bike or walk the whole route, it’s a trek. Even across Crookston.
A few months ago when we were short of help, I had signed up my husband and oldest son to assist with newspaper delivery. They didn’t seem to mind it too much, but the Saturday morning delivery of the Shopper made my son drag his feet a bit. I thought he was being a typical teenager, you know, whining about everything and thinking they have so many better things to do with their time.
Then, one day, we were really short of help and I volunteered myself (and my husband) to do a Shopper route in our neighborhood. I was actually pretty excited because it was a nice sunny day, I had some time that afternoon before more event planning, and our five-year-old daughter, who was coming with, was in a good mood. It started out easy, me walking door-to-door on one side of the street and my husband walking on the other side. Then, my daughter had to go to the bathroom, so I was alone. “It’s fine”, I told myself. “I can do this. This is an easy job.” House after house, I walked and put the Shopper in the paper boxes. Then it started to get warm out. Hot, actually. I was going to get a nice tan though, I thought to myself. Then, after what seemed like hours, I moved on to another area. The mobile home park, actually. I delivered to a few trailers in one row and then started on the other. Keep in mind, some of these places didn’t look like they had anyone living in them for a while and the grass and weeds were tall and pokey (sharp.) It wasn’t the most pleasant thing to be walking through, but that’s part of the job. Plus, a lot of the homes didn’t even have a mailbox so you have to walk up and put the paper in the door. Honestly, I sort of felt like I was trespassing when I had to do that.
One trailer, in particular, that I delivered to that day had a dog outside. It was a smaller dog and, being a dog lover, I immediately greeted it. I didn’t walk right up to it, I took my time. It was wagging its tail while it barked at me and I thought its leash would not reach the paper box so I walked up and slid the Shopper inside. As I turned around to walk away, it took a bite out of my leg. My first initial thought was, “What just happened?” I love dogs. Can’t dogs sense this when I greet them? Apparently not. My next thought was, “Well, this dog was just protecting its house and the people inside.” Immediately after that, my third thought was, “Why would anyone want to do this job if this is kind of thing they have to deal with?” Was it true all along what they say about dogs and mailmen? I was utterly disappointed. My leg had marks (no blood drawn), but I think my ego was more bruised than anything else.
After that experience, my day went downhill quickly. I was getting more uncomfortably warm after each house’s delivery even though my husband and daughter had finally got back to help. I noticed more and more about the appearances of some people’s houses and was getting even more nervous about walking right up to their door and placing a newspaper (Shopper) in their paper box or door. “Should I be wearing a sign around my neck so they don’t think I’m a stranger or intruder coming up to their door?” I thought. Maybe I was overreacting a little. I mean, we are still in Crookston.
When we finally got finished, I began to wonder if all of that was worth it. All of the work that goes into one newspaper for one day with the hours of preparation, traveling, interviews, photos, money spent printing and retrieving the paper from a different location, all the organizing, labeling, rounding up carriers, time delivering and, sometimes, in the weather elements? And then my phone dinged. I received an email thanking me (and the rest of the crew) for the coverage for a certain event. I think of the smiles on the people attending that event, the fun I had taking photos at that event, and what that meant to the event’s organizers that we took the time to cover that event after all of the work that they endured to make sure that event happened. Then, my phone dinged again. It was a notification of a horrible local story that was unfolding and we needed to include it in our next day’s edition, and on our website and social media. We are the news. (Well, us, KROX Radio and Neil Carlson’s video/internet venture.) We are where Crookston residents get their information. Not only is our job important, but people rely on us to get the word out, help promote their businesses and inform them of what is going on and what is coming up in the event world.
Our newspaper carriers are the people that hand-deliver the news to our customers, our subscribers. They pay for that service, they expect it to be timely and, without our subscribers, we wouldn’t be here.
Newspaper carriers, alongside mail carriers, might be one of the most under-appreciated jobs out there. The pay isn’t that great, they have to worry about walking through tall sharp weeds or snowy un-shoveled sidewalks, worry about getting bit by a dog that is tied up (or not tied up) outside, worry about walking up to people’s houses and opening doors when they don’t have a mailbox/paper box, and the weather sometimes doesn’t make that job pleasant either.
So, my note to you, anyone that has read this far (thank you!), please put out a mailbox and/or paper box if you don’t have one, consider a roadside mailbox if you live in the mobile home park (can’t we make this mandatory?), appreciate your newspaper (and mail) carriers by saying “Thank You” when you see them (or a tip or plate of cookies if your heart desires), and, please, let us know if there’s anything we can do to make the newspaper better for you. Our office is open five days a week, you can call us, email us, message us on Facebook, comment on our social media pages, or drop off a note in our side door slot.
We’ve been around since 1885, so we must be doing something right. And we don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.