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.
Even though I have always seemed to work, sell, and earn money better than most of my friends and family I never reached that super-status of income. I've never been more than middle class or even upper middle class. I've always thought I wanted to be rich but the reality is that I never have counted richness in dollars. More than dollars I wanted to be rich in friends, family, and relationships. Those very characteristics was what probably kept me from the Super-Uber income during my working career. In the various sales positions I've held at various businesses I always wanted to stick around and get to know my customers instead of moving on to find my next new customer. And so it was when I was selling newspapers. I could have sold twice as many newspapers but if anyone of those young sailors struck up a conversation with me I stopped and lingered to talk, joke around, and laugh with them.
During the Spring and Summer of 1966 while making my sales rounds through the ships docked at the Naval Base I made a friend, an active duty military sailor friend. His name was Ronald, but he told me his friends and family called him Ronnie. He was probably no more that 18, he could have even been 17 years old. Keep in mind that I was 12. Now an 18 year old doesn't usually hang out with or have many friends that are 12 years old. But for whatever reason he treated me not like one of his sailor buddies but like was his little brother. When the Quartermaster blew his whistle that "the Newport Daily News was on sale on the Quarterdeck" everybody would come to buy their daily news source, including Ronnie. He didn't come to buy a paper he came to see me and check on how I was doing. If I happened to be near the end of my newspaper supplies Ronnie would wait until I sold the last one and then show me around the ship! It was so cool, and so was Ronnie!
From time to time, the ships that were station at the Newport Naval Base would go "out to sea." That is to say, the ship would go on training maneuvers or even real defensive moves for Naval operations and the ship would be gone for weeks or even months at a time. The families of the sailors, many of them my friends, whose fathers were stationed on a ship, would lament the days when their dad was going to be "out to sea." I remember when Ronnie told me that his ship was leaving in a few days and would be gone for three months. I was forlorned. I wouldn't see my Navy Buddy for a while and I was sad. I marked on my calendar when he would return. On that return to dock day I went down to the ship that morning when it was schedule to pull into dock, even though my paper sale job wasn't until about 4:00 in the afternoon. At the appropriate time, when the crew was dismissed, the hoards of sailors came rumbled down that ramp scurrying about the dock t find their wives and children. The ship was opened for visitors so their were civilians on the dock and on the ship itself. The single guys, especially that were from out of town, and those that had no one to meet them would stay on board and maintain the ship. I knew that description fit Ronnie. When the crowd cleared I ran up the ramp looking for Ronnie. He did not know I was coming, so it took me a while to find him. When I did find him it was so much fun. He picked me up and held me in the air. He did not expect ANYBODY to come and welcome him back. Ronnie was as excited as I was. After the man hugs and appropriate high fives, he invited me to eat lunch with him in the galley. There was lots of family members on board and it was a festive atmosphere. Eventually I had to go home, get my newspapers and head back to the piers to sell them.
A few weeks later
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!
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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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