by Jan Baughman
Read Chapter 1 of this saga, Help Wanted: A rural struggle with The New York Times delivery
Read Chapter 2 of this saga, I Want My NYT: Rural Delivery, from the Sublime to the Ridiculous
Read Chapter 3 of this saga, The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times
(Swans - January 2, 2012) The final New York Times was delivered to the blue tube at the bottom of our hill on Sunday, September 25, 2011; home delivery stopped all together in Anderson Valley on October 1. Then, in typical fashion of this saga, which I've described in the previous three chapters, on October 5 we received a phone call from a NYT representative wanting to know if we no longer wanted to receive the paper... Gilles was of course taken aback, then politely replied that we in fact do want to receive the paper, but home delivery was stopped thanks to a financial decision by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. In the end, it was no surprise that the NYT publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., never took the time to respond to my pleas for help to save our Sunday delivery.
Still, we haven't let go of the Sunday-morning ritual of reading the paper paper -- we have followed the advice of Mr. Hank O'Day -- the genial NYT representative who helped straighten out our delivery problems until the Press Democrat decided to ruin things (in response to Chapter 2, he said "There's plenty of frustration to go around."), and I drive to the Pic N Pay market in Boonville around 7:30 am every Sunday to buy one. (And by the way, Mr. Sulzberger, we find it very easy to play the "limited online access" game during the week). Nor have we removed the blue delivery tube from the bottom of the hill. Maybe one day it will be another local historic tourist attraction, like the old Bucky Walter phone booth at the Redwood Drive-In.
Perhaps the newspaper companies are the visionaries and we are the Luddites, still clinging to the ritual of sitting side-by-side at the table on Sunday, turning paper pages; lingering for hours (on non-publishing weekends) as we navigate the various sections -- I start out slowly with the style section, then move to sports, then to the front section; finally tackling the troubling topics that make up the Op Eds. Next comes the business section, and a scan of the arts and entertainment and travel sections for anything of interest. Gilles starts with sports then dives straight into the Op Eds, taking the front section when I'm done with it, then business, and so on. The book review and the magazine are saved for last, often not being read till late in the afternoon or evening. The alternative would be each of us is in a different room reading the paper on our respective computers, not sharing a common experience or saying "you need to read this article," or outlining paragraphs that will become material for a Swans piece. Having to drive four miles each way to get the paper is a minor inconvenience that we'll do until the paper paper is finally driven into extinction by the electronic version.
We wish the best for the newspaper industry employees who are struggling to keep their jobs as their business contracts. In response to our December 18 Swans distribution e-mail, we received the following automatic reply from good-old Hank:
Effective Dec. 17th, I have retired. Please contact Mike Allen at: email@example.com and/or 1-877-698-6453.
We hope his retirement was voluntary...
Meanwhile, in an ironic twist to this twisted saga, the NYT is considering selling off its Press Democrat group, whose "revenue has fallen 48 percent in the last five years. Advertising in the Regional Media Group has declined every year since 2006 as circulation declined and readers switched to online publications."
Each religion has its vision of and timing for the end times; in this secular household, the end Times of newspaper delivery have arrived. It's the end of an era, and thus concludes this brief and final chapter of all the rural delivery news that's fit to print.
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