How to Save the Newspaper: Bring Back the Paperboy

I came home from a three-week trip to find a dozen newspapers. They weren't in order and they weren't all the same paper. I had dutifully cancelled the three newspapers I subscribe to, so I was puzzled. But then, ever since I moved houses two weeks before the trip, I had been battling with newspaper delivery.

This could be the incident that pushes me finally to online newspapers. A technologist, I do read a lot of news online. But I love the randomness of how I read a paper of news. I read it well, with coffee and breakfast.

So, this recent series of delivery issues got me thinking that may be the reason the newspaper is dying in its print form is not because everyone wants to read on line, but because of the sub-par delivery experience.

We miss the paperboy!

I was a paperboy--well actually, the first papergirl in Seattle. When I was 12, I talked my way into a job delivering the Seattle Times. I remember the boss--the guy at the shack where we all met and picked up our bundles of papers--looking this scrawny girl over and telling me I had a week to prove I could do it.

So after school, I would head over to the shack down the street, pick up my bundles, hoist them on to the back of my bike and ride my route. Sunday morning papers were too big for me to carry. I tried, and it took me three hours to deliver them as I had to keep coming back to reload. So, my mother volunteered to get up at 5:30 am and drive me around. She was dedicated to my employment.

What I learned as a papergirl is to find out where each of my customers wanted their papers. I didn't just throw it on their lawn. If they wanted it on their porch, or mailbox or inside the gate, that is where they got it. When a customer went out of town, he would tell me and I would make double sure that the papers didn't pile up to flag thieves. In return, I got big tips.

Somewhere between when I was a kid and when my own kids were cresting twelve, the paperboy disappeared replaced by services. We put our orders, our vacation holds, our moves into online forms that then tell a service that sends a guy in a truck to throw the paper onto the lawn.

The people that run and own newspapers, including Jeff Bezos, have the opportunity to deliver news to us in a multitude of forms--and we should be able to get it any way we want. We should be able to pay for the form we want it in, including how it is distributed. I would gladly pay to have a papergirl or boy deliver the paper on the right day in the right way, and I would tip for that privilege.

Let's bring back the paperboy and with it meaningful employment for our children.