Like so many men my age, I delivered newspapers as a way of earning money (and secondarily learning responsibility). Back in the late 1950’s boys were the preferred labor pool tapped to bring news to the living rooms of most of America. For about $1.90 a month I would deliver the San Antonio Light seven days a week, to about 100 customers in my neighborhood of San Antonio, Texas. Today, I pay about 20 times that amount for only 5 papers a week and I have had terrible customer service including inconsistent delivery. But, to be honest the newspaper industry is dying and finds it difficult to compete with the other sources of news via smart phones, TV, cable, internet, and social media.
Why did the model of hiring young boys to deliver papers work when I was growing up? Because the family encouraged teens to go out and earn some money, and child labor laws exempted newspaper delivery as a job that boys of a certain age could compete in the labor market. Boys were motivated to earn spending money, and were trainable for a simple job like delivering newspapers, and finally it was comparatively safe. It was safer than working in a garment sweatshop, but the delivery boy had to ride a bike in traffic to cover his route in a timely way. Most carriers were boys and used bicycles to deliver the papers. But a large number of children in the fifties rode bikes to school and around the neighborhood already, before they delivered the newspaper.
Today teens are less interested in working than they are in playing video games, texting, and posting on social media. Teens are less active physically, and so are less interested in carrying 30 pounds of newspapers around their neck and riding a bicycle up a hilly street. But this is an oversimplification. Because, today it is not as safe for young people to be on the street early in the morning by themselves. It may have started with famous disappearance case of Johnny Gosh the morning of September 5, 1982. Johnny disappeared on the morning of September 15, 1982, while delivering newspapers in West Des Moines. Two years later another boy went missing in the Des Moines area on August 12, 1984. Eugene Martin also disappeared while delivering newspapers. And in July, 1986, Jim Pollack, 15 fought off a wouldbe abductor while he was delivering newspapers on the west side of Des Moines. Noreen Gosh believes that all three of these incidents are related to child trafficking for sex.
These cases received wide notoriety and no doubt since the 1980’s parents have not seen delivering papers as a safe job for boys and girls. So today boys and girls don’t deliver many newspapers. So to attract older individuals, the newspaper has to pay more for the delivery of their product. This raises the cost of subscription for home delivery, but the marketplace is keen. Therefore when I encounter poor service and high costs, I will look elsewhere for my news. Will I be as happy getting my newspaper digitally? I don’t know, I struggle with the slow loading time and the size of the fonts on my computer monitor. The local newspaper covers local government and school district news a lot better than other sources though. Their reporters are more seasoned and more responsible in covering local issues than are other media. And I will miss the comics in my hands.