I hope you’re reading these words on Sunday morning. I hope your paper was delivered on time. But recently, we’re been struggling with consistent delivery.

It pains me to write those words. We’re disappointing many of our home-delivery subscribers. We aren’t living up to our on-time delivery promise – a paper at your home by 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday and by 7:30 a.m. on Sundays – and it’s incredibly frustrating to us. We take pride in providing exceptional journalism as well as exceptional customer service, and we’re falling down on the latter part.

Lisa DeSisto

 

It’s essentially a labor problem. We are experiencing the most acute shortage of newspaper carriers we can recall. The unemployment rate in Maine is at its lowest since 1957. Employers across the state – especially in southern Maine – are having trouble finding workers. The pain we are experiencing in trying to fill open positions is no different from what other companies are feeling. But our challenge has become obvious to many of our customers.

CHALLENGES

Many forces are working against the newspaper business these days – readers consuming news for free on the internet, the new tariff on Canadian newsprint driving up the prices that publishers pay for paper, and now this labor shortage, which is hampering our ability to get the paper to every subscriber on time every morning.

Everyone at the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram has been pitching in to deliver papers – from sales reps and reporters to managers and department heads. But there are bumps. A route that takes a seasoned carrier three hours to complete can take a rookie double that time, as we search for streets that GPS apps can’t find, and attempt to jam multiple sections and advertising inserts in those yellow bags. It has been an eye-opening and humbling experience for everyone on our staff who has “thrown a route” for the first time.

Delivering newspapers is not the same job it was 25 years ago, when kids tossed newspapers onto porches from their bicycles after school. Most afternoon papers are gone. To deliver a morning paper these days, you must be at least 18 and own a car, and be willing to work from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., dodging deer while searching for house numbers in the dark. It is a really hard job. We’ve worked to make it more attractive, by offering signing bonuses and incentives for outstanding service, but we still have 27 open routes from Edgecomb to Kennebunkport.

To those of you with fond memories of delivering the Evening Express: Consider coming out of retirement! I’m not joking. Delivering newspapers is a great way to earn extra money, if you don’t mind the early hours. Journalism and marketing students home from college: Put the Press Herald on your resume by delivering it. Teachers off for summer: Deliver papers before the sun rises and still enjoy those beautiful summer days. Retired couples: Rekindle your romance under the stars on a route close to your home. Seriously, if you know anyone who’d be interested in delivering the paper, please call our carrier hotline at 791-6001.

SILVER LINING?

If our delivery crisis has a silver lining, it’s that these problems have reaffirmed our understanding of our relationship with our readers. Many of you have told us that you can’t start your today without your newspaper. And we realize that we let you down enormously when your paper isn’t in the tube at the end of your driveway. It has also deepened our appreciation for our long-term carriers who are masters of their routes and provide exceptional service to our customers.

Naturally we are extending customers’ subscriptions when we miss deliveries. But we know that many of you don’t want a credit – you want your paper. Still, if you experience a disruption in service, please email our circulation team at [email protected] or call customer service at 791-6000.

Our entire staff is distraught over the uneven service we’ve been providing the past few months. We are committed to making it better. We are working around the clock to fill the open routes. We have important stories to tell, and we need to get them to you. We must continue to publish – and deliver – everything from public service journalism to public notices. Our work is vital to the community, and our indefatigable team has the resolve and dedication to take on any challenge we face. As always, thank you for your patience and your support of local journalism.