Before McDonald’s as an entry-level job, there were newspaper boys or girls with brave parents. These youngsters mounted their Schwinns every day and portaged 70 or 80 newspapers — maybe more if they had a big basket — to readers’ homes in their route areas.
They probably got several cents per copy. Yes, it required discipline. And some salesmanship. Mom or Dad might help with a car ride in rain or snow. Some of us even got movie passes as a bonus. Of course, some tossed copies may have ended in the bushes.
But it also took determination, diplomacy, timing and maybe a stern-looking father as back-up standing out by the sidewalk when some jerk tried to screw the kid out of a weekly cash payment.
Most afternoon papers are gone now, dead or morphed into morning blats. With an improving economy, many better jobs are available. And there are more rules. Newspaper delivery persons need to be at least 18 and already own a car.
Oh, and they need a desire to work from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., sometimes later.
Good luck with all that. Forget the Schwinns.
“We take pride in providing exceptional journalism as well as exceptional customer service,” Lisa DeSisto wrote her readers the other day, “and we’re falling down on the latter part.” She’s publisher of the Press-Herald and Sunday Telegram up in Portland, Maine.
You might think, what’s the big deal. Go online. But fortunately for newspapers owning expensive presses, there is still a market — albeit an aging one — for readers who like to hold that newsprint in their hands over toast and coffee, get ink smudges on their fingers and learn about the world around them.
Unemployment in Maine is at its lowest in 70 years, which is a good thing for workers and President Trump. But for DeSisto that means trouble finding deliverers. Not the only challenge: There’s much free news online and a tariff on newsprint from Canada.
So, Desisto wrote an explanation: “Our entire staff is distraught over the uneven service we’ve been providing the past few months. We are committed to making it better.”
Other paper employees have chipped in to help fill the gap in 27 empty routes between Edgecomb and the home of 93-year-old President Bush home in Kennebunkport. But even with GPS and flashlights that takes extra time to find the roadside newspaper tubes.
DeSisto is offering signing bonuses for newcomers and incentives for great service.
To those of you with fond memories of delivering the Evening Express: Consider coming out of retirement! I’m not joking.
Delivering newspapers is a great way to earn extra money, if you don’t mind the early hours. Journalism and marketing students home from college: Put the Press Herald on your resume by delivering it. Teachers off for summer: Deliver papers before the sun rises and still enjoy those beautiful summer days.
Retired couples: Rekindle your romance under the stars on a route close to your home. Seriously, if you know anyone who’d be interested in delivering the paper, please call our carrier hotline.