By Les Bowen for Genesee Country Express | Oct. 7, 2010 | Original source
This is another one of my weekly musings. Here, I share with my readers how I started in newspapers as an 11-year-old carrier.
It’s only been six years since I took my first job as a news reporter, but my career in the newspaper industry goes back much further.
I grew up in an average middle class family in suburbia. My dad was employed at a Salt Lake City hotel and when after my siblings were all in school, my mom took a job as a school lunch cook.
Yet one afternoon when I was 11 years old, my mother approached me to tell me she thought it was time I got a job. By no means was I an angel of child, but no, I was not getting kicked out of the house.
It turned out my mother had heard the neighbor boys had quit their job delivering the weekly paper that covered our neighborhood. Printed on a light green newsprint, the paper was called the “Green Sheet” and it carried the latest happenings at city hall, the water improvement district and local schools.
A few weeks later, I slung a canvas bag over my shoulders. Ugh! My scrawny frame strained under the weight. It turned out I wouldn’t be able to carry all 115 papers I needed to deliver; 30 was about the heaviest load I could bear. The first few weeks were a learning experience, but within a month, I had figured out a route that let me stop twice back at my house (Later that winter, I was appreciative of those stops and on a few occasions, the warm socks and breakfast that awaited me on the mid-route stops). By the next spring, I was a pro at landing papers squarely on the front steps as I sped past houses on my bicycle.
The job wasn’t just about delivering newspapers. There were no subscriptions to the “Green Sheet” – everyone got a paper every week unless they called to say they didn’t want it. Once a month, I made my way through the neighborhood knocking the doors of all 115 houses and asking for a voluntary payment of $1, which I split 40-60 with my employer (I had no idea, even in the early ‘90s, how low that cover price was or I would have been more persistent in collections). Most months, I made between $45 and $60, a fair wage for a middle school student.
I had no idea as I worked my first job, that I would end up pursuing a career in the newspaper industry. Both in my time as a newspaper carrier and as a professional reporter and editor, I’ve heard countless stories of what people value in their hometown newspapers. Now is your chance to share. This week is National Newspaper Week and we at The Genesse Country Express want to hear your stories about what you like best about the newspaper. Send your entries via e-mail to [email protected] by Monday, Oct. 11, and we’ll print a few of the submissions in the paper and online at dansvilleonline.com.