Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Top 10 Ways Newspapers Mistreat Carriers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Top 10 Ways Newspapers Mistreat Carriers

Article excerpt

Schiller, a contract auditor and former circulation supervisor, is based in Plantation, Fla.

Detailing the down side of a grueling daily chore that's much needed but little appreciated

I RECENTLY HAD to get up early to catch a plane to Detroit (two things I hate, waking early and going to Detroit). Leaving for the airport, I came across Miami Herald and Fort Lauderdale Sun-sentinel carriers delivering their routes in my complex. Watching them brought back memories of exhaustion. I have delivered hundreds of thousands of papers. I could relate.

It's been a long time since I've awakened at 1, 2 or 3 in the morning to toss papers along a route or to check on carriers. I'm endlessly amazed at what they accomplish every day how little recognition they receive for their efforts, and how badly most papers treat them. Buoyed by recent congressional legislation that reduces from 20 to three the number of points defining an independent contractor, as opposed to an employee, newspaper companies have virtual carte blanche to do as they will to carriers.

Because the complex I live in doesn't allow dogs and cats, the only pets I have are peeves. In no particular order, here are my top 10 on how newspapers mistreat carriers:

10. No pay for waiting time when papers are late. When someone nicknamed Scoop yells, "Stop the presses," he may have visions of Pulitzer Prizes, but carriers have visions of being fired from their real jobs for being late. I worked at a morning paper where delays resulted in the last paper coming out after 3 a.m., for weeks. Though many carriers had jobs to go to, they were bullied or cajoled into waiting around for papers for hours. But the press lateness didn't stop some circulation personnel from having the nerve to slap carriers who did stay with complaint charges for late delivery!

If carriers are forced to wait an unreasonable amount of time for papers, they should be compensated. Cab drivers get waiting time. Why not carriers?

9. Supply charges. Grocery clerks ask, "Paper or plastic?" With many newspapers, "paper in plastic" is mandatory. But at about a penny a piece, plastic bags take a big bite out of carriers' earnings.

Relaxed federal regulations on independent contractors now allow papers to provide carriers with supplies gratis without being hauled into court.

8. Commissions. Newspapers pay outside companies as much as $50 per subscription order -- too often for "Teflon" circulation, Why not reapportion some of this sales expense and up the ante for carriers who sell subscriptions -- especially since their orders are more likely to stick?

7. Not sharing insert revenues. Preprinted ad inserts bring in revenue and require additional work for carriers, who have to assemble papers for delivery and toss heavier loads. Why not allocate a percentage of the revenue to them? It's nice to share.

6. Forcing carriers to service deadbeat subscribers. Carriers often complain. "The paper won't let me stop my nonpays." This isn't a problem with 100% office-collect payment systems. On the other hand, many newspapers avoid 100% office-collect to avoid losing nonpays from the rolls of paid subscribers.

I've seen circulation personnel stuff nonpay stop forms in their desks the bigger the desk, the more "successful" the manager. Of course, they defend the practice as part of an aggressive program to reduce stops, never distinguishing between saving stops and saving garbage. And speaking of garbage, newspapers recycle their own - every time a nonpay stop is reborn again as a new start. Sisyphus never had it so bad. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.