All hail the mighty newspaper carrier

EDITOR’S NOTE: Before we begin this column, a note of correction. Last week, I wrote about the importance of thinking and reading critically. In that column, I wrote about a University of Connecticut study in which researchers directed students to a website detailing the fictional tree octopus, and how researchers found students believed in the existence of the animal even after they were told by researchers it didn’t exist.

I said the website was created by researchers for the study. It wasn’t. Researchers used the website, but didn’t make it. The site was created in the late 1990s by a gentleman named Lyle Zapato. And it was created not for research, but, according to a recent email from Mr. Zapato, “for the edification of those interested in regional cryptozoology.” I’d remembered reading about the study years ago and went to a couple of news sites to refresh my memory. I misread those news stories as I wrote my column in a rush last week.

So I must add one item to my suggestions in that column: In addition to checking primary sources, etc., read slowly.

My apologies to Mr. Zapato.

And remember: I’ve said before that sites owning up to mistakes is a good indicator of a reliable source.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming:

If newspapers are on the front lines of democracy (and they are), then newspaper carriers are the infantry, and I’d like to take a moment to honor them.

Newspapers require a whole platoon to operate.

They begin with the advertising and classifieds teams, who, supported by our business office and front-desk team, sell the ads to raise the money for us to be able to do everything else.

After the ads are sold, the next step in making a newspaper is the creative services team, which designs the ads that please the advertisers so they’ll cut their checks. Once creative services puts the ads on the pages, editorial takes over, with reporters writing stories, editors editing stories, and page designers making all the stories and photos fit around all the ads.

Then the pages go down to the press room, where a team of skilled pressmen make the colors come out just right, the photos stand out crisp, and the ads ring true to the advertisers’ wishes. Running a press is a too-often-overlooked skilled trade, and one I’ll discuss in a future column.

None of the rest of that daily miracle would matter if not for the carriers who take the papers from our building and deliver them to the thousands of readers who count on them every day.

Especially in rural areas such as ours, where large swaths of the readership lack access to high-speed internet and may have difficulty accessing our online version, newspaper carriers are many residents’ only source of the information they need to make informed decisions about how to vote, where to shop, where to live, where to send their kids to school, and everything else a newspaper provides.

At The News, our 35 carriers head out at around 2 a.m. and each travel between 15 and 150 miles a day, each delivering about 150 newspapers.

Collectively, our carriers cover about 2,500 miles every morning, six days a week, year-round. If one carrier traveled that distance in a straight line from The News offices, he or she could reach any corner of the continental United States and as far north as Eureka, Nunavut, in Canada, or as far south as Ciudad Cortes, Costa Rica.

One of my proudest moments since joining The News was the two days in late January when the U.S. Postal Service canceled mail deliveries because of extreme cold and heavy snow, but our carriers still went out, delivering papers down every traversable road.

So, if you ever get the chance to see your carrier — which you may not, because the goal is to make sure the paper is waiting for you when you wake up in the morning — make sure to slap him or her on the back and thank them for their service to democracy.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-358-5686 or jhinkley@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.