New Year’s Day! In the business that’s been my career for almost 40 years now, the start of a new year was always a good time to catch my breath.
Traditionally, newspaper folks worked their hardest from October until the end of the year. The surge of last-quarter advertising meant long days and late nights in the ad department and rigorous schedules for the newsroom — the more advertising, the more space the newsroom had to fill.
At newspaper printing plants, warehouses overflowed with circulars that needed to be inserted on the correct day during the holiday rush. Some years a snow storm or flood somewhere in the country meant late deliveries of these materials and desperate, heroic dashes to make deadline. Employees worked all night to get the job done, then came back the next day to do it again.
I remember holding a clipboard during my daily walk-through of the newspaper’s warehouse in Grants Pass, checking off dozens of customers’ names to indicate that their advertising materials had arrived. Some of those businesses, like Fred Meyer are still going strong. Others like Montgomery Ward, Circuit City, Sprouse Reitz and G.I. Joe’s are retail history.
Not that long ago, the newspaper industry could count on robust advertising during the last quarter and employees could count on full schedules and some overtime during the busiest time of the year. Thirty percent of a retailer’s revenue would be rung up on their cash register in the last few weeks of the year.
I remember when the holiday advertising blitz started at Thanksgiving, not before it, and Thanksgiving papers were so heavy and bloated that carriers often had to make multiple trips to pick them up because they couldn’t handle them all at once.
I remember the mom of a Grants Pass bike carrier telling me her son had toppled over from the weight of his Thanksgiving papers and he and the papers fell into a ditch full of rainwater. The mom used her hair dryer to blow the papers dry before she threw them into her station wagon and helped her son finish his deliveries.
I remember when we used typewriters, not computers, to type copy, and cut paper and applied paste to create pages before the dawn of desktop publishing. We hustled and bustled and, yes, we sometimes complained that there just weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
For years, I couldn’t take the Wednesday before or the Friday after Thanksgiving off and I worked on Christmas Eve. I had no choice. The holiday newspaper business was so brisk and so demanding that we all worked from October through December without a break. To be honest, it didn’t really seem like a grind. ‘Twas the season. And when you love what you do, it’s fun.
Retailers have changed their marketing strategies and some, as mentioned above, have stopped retailing altogether. Newspaper advertising — the classic medium that launched a thousand brands — is no longer the sexiest game in town when you can post it, text it or tweet it.
Now we who gather and report the news, we who partner with businesses and design their ads, we who compose, print and deliver our community’s story on newsprint find we have a little more time on our hands in the last quarter.
But we are not discouraged. We have a loyal following as demonstrated by the letters and emails we receive. We know that a community newspaper is vital to a healthy community and are up to the task.
We are grateful for you and to you, our readers, our advertisers, neighbors, friends and family. Your support and your loyalty energize us. As publisher, I’ll share with you my resolution for the Triplicate for 2013: to make each edition better than the last. Thank you and happy New Year.