Gazette "Youth Carriers" Will be No More
By Edward Shanahan
Among early newspaper casualties were the linotype operators made obsolete by offset printing, then typewriters yielded to the computers, and black and white photos were replaced by digital images, in color no less.
How great the advance of technology, but still, the end of the newsboys and newsgirls lugging their white canvas sacks filled with Gazettes, and bringing the latest news each day to their neighborhood, is painful to contemplate.
Beware reporters and editors and photographers – you too can be outsourced.
Here is a September 24th letter to all “Youth Carriers” from Mark Galat, circulation manager for the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
“Effective Monday, October 26th, 2009, Publishers Circulation Fulfillment, Inc. (PCF) will assume the responsibility of all newspaper delivery for the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Recorder. This letter serves as a notification of the change and to inform you that only independent contractors age 18 and older will have the opportunity to contract with this independent company. The last day on all contracts with carriers and bundle haulers currently delivering the Daily Hampshire Gazette and The Recorder will be Saturday, October 24th, 2009.
“ This difficult but necessary change is the result of the continued need to reduce costs and expenditures. The efficiencies created through hiring an independent distributorship will allow both newspapers to continue to provide the same quality of service while reducing the costs associated with managing and maintaining independent contractors.”
The rest of the letter provides details for carriers being fired, of how the change will affect the scholarship programs of “youth carriers” and a bonus to be paid to the carriers if they stay on the job until Oct. 24 when their PCF replacements take over. Their parents and others 18 years and older can apply for their jobs with PCF.
(The PCF website descries itself this way: "PCF is the leading independent
newspaper home delivery and distribution logistical services company in the
United States, with operations in 20 states and the District of Columbia.")
Finally, Galat writes: “We would like to thank you for your years of dedicated service and anticipated cooperation in this transition.”
Of course, the beginning of the end for the young newsboys and newsgirls (some as young at s 9 years old) began with the conversion of the Gazette to morning delivery a few years ago, which made it difficult for them to work prior to the start of school.
When he learned of the layoffs, one of my correspondents wrote to me: “So sad - but I guess a sign of the times - and just before those big Christmas tips too.”
He also wrote: “Don't know if its anything your column would like to pay homage to.”
Is he kidding? Beginning some 60 years ago, I, too, was a newsboy and later on had a number of other newspaper jobs, as did Ann, including filling in for our sons on occasion. We covered their routes, visited with customers and made the weekly collections in Florence, especially the downtown neighborhoods and at the Meadowbrook apartment comple. It was not an easy job, as I recall, especially the collecting, managing the money, and getting the papers delivered in a timely fashion when the press run is delayed.
Even then, the management of the paper considered news carriers “independent contractors” rather than employees, which provided some kind of liability protection for the company. That did not mean the carriers had any leverage in addressing such issues as pay, working conditions and other grievances.
Although the readers always saw the newsboys and newsgirls as romantic figures, the final source of the newspaper each day, struggling through snow and rain and summer heat, the reality of the relationship between carrier and ownership was somewhat different. Some saw it as exploitation.
Still, it is the end of an era, and as with outsourcing in so many aspects of commercial life these days, what difference does it make? None I guess. You’ll still get your newspaper.
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