Today, an email, a social media post, or almost anything on the Internet, can circulate breaking news around the world in a matter of seconds. I started working in news on a professional level since I was a college intern at an ABC television network affiliate in Little Rock, Arkansas, KATV-7. Before I left college in 1977, I was hired at that same station as a news photographer and my career in media has never looked back. Sometime in early the 1980’s, the 24-hour delivery of news and sports started unfolding in the form of CNN and ESPN.
The best thing about this epic social shift in the way we viewed and consumed news was that we can now view news, or sports, at any time of the night or day. The worst thing about this phenomenal development of our culture is it becomes very repetitive. There is simply not enough content to fill up 24 hours a day with such breaking news and new development to warrant such a time suck. For over forty years now we've been living in a world with a nonstop, endless barrage of news, or stories that have started posing as news for the sake of filling the airwaves. There are no words for my disgust of the current state of the news, so that will have to be discussed in blog post on another day.
One of things that have gone to the wayside since the 24-hour news cycle was the BREAKING NEWS interruption inserted into programing. Oh sure, you still hear it, but most of the time the 24-hour news stations are long past that announcement being made by the local and network programming being interrupted for the BREAKING NEWS of the moment.
Back in the simpler times of news and information distribution, news-hounds would hear something very different to get them to stop and pay attention. People knew there was something major happening when they heard newsboys, or newsies, shouting, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" I was one of those newsboys! Actually, by the time I started this occupation at the age of eleven, the times of calling somebody a newsboy had passed. Radio, and its non-stop delivery of news, information, advertising and entertainment was able to announce any real breaking news development. At the time I was called a paperboy giving a nod to the fact that I delivered newspapers. I loved shouting, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" However, my proclamation was more for amusing my customers and drawing attention that I was selling newspapers, than announcing the news of the day. Here’s how that came about.
Not long after I started delivering the Sunday newspaper door-to-door (Part 1), I received a call from the Newport Daily News director of circulation for whom I was employed. He called to tell me I was doing a good job of not only delivering the paper to the subscribers, but was particularly pleased with the fact that I had gone to the neighbors who were not signed up to receive the paper and asking them if they wanted to do so. I had increased the route but more than 50 per cent.
“I have another route that I believe fits you perfectly,” he said.
I wasn’t sure what the director was referring to but I knew that my current route was a lot of work, albeit, one day a week for delivery, and one day every two weeks for collection and sales. Being the budding entrepreneur that I was, my eyes and ears could only see and hear the extra money I would be making. “Tell me more,” I said!
“Well, he continued, It’s a different sort of route. It’s six days per week. And it’s one that you don’t actually deliver the paper to people’s homes. You sell them one at a time to the ships down at “the Piers.”
The “Piers” was what the locals all knew was where the U.S. Naval ships would come in to dock for repairs, restocking, reloading and awaiting their next call to duty. My father, who was in the Navy at the time, but in 20 years was never stationed on a ship. He being enlisted was the reason we lived on the Navy Base in Newport. Most of my friends had fathers that were in fact stationed on those Naval ships. Many of those dads were gone for weeks, or months at a time in what we all called, “Out to Sea.”
With this unique environment as a paperboy, my job was simply to go from ship-to-ship and have the sailor on watch announce, “The Newport Daily News was now on sale on the Quarterdeck.” In just a few seconds a steady stream of sailors would come forth wanting to buy the ten-cent paper for 15 cents. A nickel more because I was allowed to charge more for the on-board delivery. As soon as the stream stopped or slowed down, I would go on to the next ship and repeat the process. I sold about 50 papers in a about twenty minutes and I went home. I had to buy the papers for 7-1/2 cents each and sold them for fifteen cents each. That was $3.75 per day, plus TIPS! Did I mention that often a sailor would give me a quarter and say, “keep the change?” My tips were almost always another $3.00 - 4.00 per day. Multiply that by six days per week and I was making about $45.00 per week. Keep in mind this was in 1965.
After a few weeks of selling 50 papers per day I could gage how fast I sold the papers, and how many papers per ship I was selling, depending on the size of the vessel. The bigger the ship equaled more sailors, which equaled more sales. I am bad in math to this day, and fifty five years ago I doubt if I was any better. But I soon realized that I needed to get more papers per day, and get to more ships per day to make more money. I started ordering more papers and going to more ships and selling as much as 100-150 papers per day. The profit per paper stayed the same and the tips averaged about the same. When the piers were full, I was making as much as $120 + per week! That was more money than most of the sailors who were buying papers from me were making! I was, what we used to say, “rolling in the dough!” Soon the $7.50 er week I was making on my Sunday door-to-door delivery didn’t seem worth not having a day off so I took a friend of mine into the News office resigned and told them I found my replacement.
As I look back with the new found independence that my money gave me, I believe the longer lasting lessons I learned was that of hard work, you get what you work for, you have to manage your money well, the economics of investing more money into what you do can pay dividends, and many other economics and free enterprise principles. So yeah, EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it!
Steve Shaner, is a professional storyteller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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