MURPHY: When their paper is missed, subscribers miss their paper

J.K. Murphy

J.K. Murphy

For those who have written the eulogy for “print journalism,” I invite you to spend a morning in the Gwinnett Daily Post’s customer service department.

What you will be exposed to is the persistent earnestness of callers who did not receive their newspaper … and want it.

Allow me to digress ….

In late August, the Daily Post began a transition of our delivery system. For the last three-plus years, the Post had been delivered by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But this arrangement was not going to work long term and the Post — as well as sister papers the Rockdale Citizen and the Newton Citizen — contracted with a new handler — American Newspaper Solutions (ANS).

It is one thing to maintain or transition a delivery system already in place. It is quite another to build one from the ground up — which was the task set before us.

The transition began a little more than two months ago, with the Post retaking chunks of circulation in phases two or three weeks apart.The GDP is the second largest circulation newspaper in Georgia with 60,000 home deliveries Wednesday through Saturday and 100,000 on Sunday. This number of subscribers requires:

• 329 daily routes delivering an average 180 customers.

• An additional 72 routes on Sunday when the routes average 250 customers.

• 401 carriers total.

• 8 redelivery drivers.

And we started from scratch.

Admittedly, out of the gate the new system did not meet our expectations or those of our readers. While many areas didn’t miss a beat, some pockets saw many houses missed.

On one particularly brutal Wednesday, 1,100 callers got through to a customer service rep. It wasn’t pretty.

The last batch of customers moved a week ago and this last Sunday was the first time ANS delivered the GDP’s entire 100,000 circulation.

There are still some unsightly wrinkles, but everyone at the Post and ANS is working feverishly to regain normalcy. A positive sign is that complaints in the first phases have quieted (one district with 4,000 subscribers received only seven complaints last Sunday and another received zero).

So, we are seeing fewer areas experiencing delivery disruption. It is getting better every day.

Returning to the original premise, the silver lining is the passion our customers feel about this community newspaper.

Some of the comments amid the frustration of not receiving the paper:

“It is my connection to the community …”

“It’s how I start my day …”

“The local news is all I care to read about …”

The last few weeks have not been pleasant for employees at the Post. Callers, at times not able to get through to the Circulation Department, will contact anyone they know at the paper to register their complaint.

Editor Todd Cline recently took a message: “You may remember me from when my son played football at North Gwinnett eight years ago …”

Other employees report similar conversations. When they are out on the street, readers don’t hesitate to give them an earful … because when their paper delivery is missed, they miss their paper. That’s what community newspapering is all about.

One caller I spoke with ended his conversation with “Expletive, expletive, expletive … I WANT MY POST.”

We wouldn’t want it any other way.

J.K. Murphy is vice president/content for Southern Community Newspapers, Inc., parent company of the Daily Post.