Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,

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Word reached us today that Detroit’s two major daily newspapers, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, will soon cease daily home delivery. They will still publish every day and will be available at stores and newsstands, but home delivery will be limited to three days a week. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. The printed newspaper business everywhere is in a period of decline and the bottom of the drop remains to be seen. Electronic media is the wave of the present and future. I don’t think printed newspapers will disappear entirely, but they will assume a smaller, more marginal station in our culture.

Is this a bad thing? A good thing? I don’t think it’s necessarily either one. It’s a thing. The important question isn’t whether or not we should have printed newspapers. Of more importance are questions like: How will our free press adapt and survive in this era? How can we the people have access to a diversity of reliable news and responsible opinions? What are the risks of this new order and how will we deal with them? Those were also good questions to ask ten years ago, fifty years ago, a hundred years ago.

Still, the news out of Detroit touches me on a personal level, not only because I grew up in a Detroit home where we read both the News and the Free Press every day, but also because I had a Detroit News paper route through most of high school. Here’s a memento I’ve hung onto:

It’s an extremely well-made bag, constructed from very thick, durable cloth and metal rivets. I’m presently trying to decide on an appropriate way of displaying it, so any suggestions would be welcome!

As a paperboy, I had the largest route in the district – in the worst neighborhood. It was the only route in the district that was south of I-94. If you want to see precisely where, look at a map of Detroit’s east side and follow Conner Avenue south from City Airport. Just below I-94 and east of Conner, you’ll see a small neighborhood mostly surrounded by the Chandler Park Golf Course. That’s where my route was. And let me tell you – they haven’t had home delivery in that neighborhood for over 25 years; I was one of the last to hold that route.

Having a large route meant that I made a lot of money, at least relative to my fellow carriers. As I recall, I was clearing over $30 a week. Okay, that wasn’t a lot of money even then for most people, but as a high school student, and with gas selling for less than a dollar a gallon, it made a BIG difference in my life at the time!

Still, I find that there is one memory of my paper route that has remained particularly strong for me: Sunday mornings. You see, the home-delivered edition of the News on weekdays was its evening edition, i.e., this was an after-school job Monday through Friday. The Saturday edition was delivered in late morning. But the Sunday edition was delivered in the early morning, early enough that it would still be dark out during the winter months.

I wouldn’t have used this word at the time, but I’ll use it now – it was therapeutic to do my route on a Sunday morning. There was virtually no traffic. I saw very few people along the way. All was still, the sun was rising, the mist was in the air, the dew was on the grass. It was completely alien from the bustle of my other lives, i.e., the crowded home where I lived, the bustling society of my high school, and the normally buzzing city of my residence. Whereas many people would meet me at the door eager to lay their hands upon the paper on weekdays, I was largely on my own time on Sundays. If you weren’t raised in a big city, I wonder whether you can relate to my feelings about this. For me, the discovery of Sunday morning was one of many moments in my life when I was quietly ushered into a larger world.

In case you’re wondering, I quit my paper route as winter was setting in during my junior year of high school. For all that the route brought to me, winter was a tough, tough time to be a paperboy. On top of it, I’d had a couple of near misses with attempted robbery of my collection money and distinct physical danger to my person. Doing the route was beginning to feel like Russian roulette, and I decided to heed my instincts. My successor was robbed at gunpoint only a few months later. Soon thereafter, the district manager showed up on my doorstep unannounced to try and sweet-talk me into taking the route back. The sound of the wind whistling through my empty wallet made me consider it for a moment, but only for a moment. I didn’t work at another job until late in my senior year, but my time as a paperboy was yesterday’s news.

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