A Paperboy Looks Back on a Disappearing Job

Today I want to look back (think or talk about something from my past, my personal history).   Back in the mid-1970s, at the age of 11 or 12, I worked as a paperboy for the evening newspaper in St. Paul, the St. Paul Dispatch.   A paperboy (or papergirl, although they were mostly young boys) is a child who sells newspapers on the street or (more commonly in the U.S.) delivers the newspaper to people’s houses.  It was very common for newspapers back in my youth (younger days) to have paperboys all throughout the city delivering newspapers.  The newspapers would be dropped off (left, transported to) on a street corner early in the morning (5:00 AM) and during the mid-afternoon (4:00 PM), and the paperboy had to walk to the corner, pick up his 40 or 50 newspapers, put them in a small bag, and walk from house to house delivering the newspapers.

Before we delivered them, we usually folded them so we could easily toss (throw) them at the houses as we walked by or rode by on a bicycle.  Nearly every house subscribed to a daily newspaper in my neighborhood, so there was always lots of work.  I had lots of friends who also had these paper routes (paper delivery jobs) when they were in elementary school in order to earn a little extra money for candy and soda and whatever kids spend money on. Being a paperboy was part of growing up for many young boys during the mid-20th century in large American cities.  (Newspapers in the 1990s began moving away from having young children work as paperboys, and now most newspapers are delivered by car.)

In the Twin Cities where I grew up (Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota), each city had two daily newspapers – one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Before the age of cable and satellite television, and long before the Internet, the only way you could get your news was watching one of the three local television stations or reading a newspaper.  My parents received the daily paper, and I would always begin my day reading the paper as I ate breakfast (cold cereal, usually).  I remember watching my father read the paper every morning and every evening.  Like most children growing up, I wanted to act like the adults in my world, so I, too, read the newspaper every day.  In fact, when I got my paper route, I spent part of the money I earned (made) on a subscription to the Minneapolis Star.

Then, sometime in the 1980s, when cable television became more and more popular, people started reading the newspapers less, so many morning and evening papers combined into one, single morning paper.  The St. Paul Dispatch became the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch; the Minneapolis Star became the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and so forth.   All across America, newspapers were closing or combining.

Then came the Internet.  Now, everyone could get almost all the news they wanted online – for free!  So the number of subscribers to the newspapers began to decline even more.  Combined with the current economic recession, many newspapers simply cannot survive.  Several newspapers have closed in the past few months, some of them 150 or more years old.  Some are moving to the Internet, such as this Seattle paper.

Many people welcome this change.  They like getting their news whenever they want and the freedom to read any newspaper in the world that is online.  But of course, newspapers need money to pay reporters who report the news.  With few subscribers and Internet advertising that does not pay them enough, some newspapers – many newspapers? – will simply disappear in the next few years because they don’t have the money to continue.  This is especially true of smaller, local papers.

Although I do read news stories online, I still prefer to read an actual, physical paper.   Every morning, just as I did when I was 11 years old, I get up and collect (pick up) my morning newspapers from my front steps, and sit down with a bowl of cold cereal to read the newspapers.  I love the physical paper in my hands, and I will miss it when it’s gone.


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23 Responses to A Paperboy Looks Back on a Disappearing Job

  1. Stanislav rom Russia says:

    It’s very interesting story!
    As to me, I prefer news by internet.
    Thanks Jeff!

  2. Peter says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Tow words into The article ,I was certain the article is your work without checking the down bellow. Man , I am telling you ,you have a knack or better to say a flair for writting. If you ask for my oponion, You should think about starting a writing career. Ofcourse, Lucy has a strong aptitiude for it as well.

    I am serious ,You can make tons of money. If only I could write even barely close to you or Lucy.

  3. Rodrigo says:

    This is very interesting Jeff, I have read that this is the trend in the newspaper industry due to the internet as you explained very well, and this has been a topic which is being discussed in many journalist schools in universities all over the world.

    Nowdays many people expend a lot of time in their jobs working with their pc, therefore is easier and faster to read the news in the net instead of reading physical papers, many workers sometimes don´t have time to read the news in the traditional way, in addition the information is fresh and updated each minute, it´s a challenge for newspaper media industry to adapt themselves to the new situation, I read t that he the New York Times was facing problems because of this (Incredible).

    This is consecuence of the new technologies, I remember the book “The third wave” by Alvin Tofler who predicted all this changes and transformations the society, industries, countries, government, people will face with the use of advance technology, those who are interested in this matter will find this reading very useful….

    Tks for yr comment Jeff,


  4. emiliano says:

    Yes, I do think same as Peter.
    It’s lovely story Jeff, and you write it so well. Why don’t write more?. Sure you have lot of dreams or remember a way of life that is over now, please talk us more like this
    one. We shall be fond to them that’s for sure.
    You really touch my heart as I was reading your memories, thank you so much Jeff.

  5. emiliano says:

    Today is San Jose, so I want to wish a happy day to all Josephs, Joses, Pepes, Pepas, Maria Joses, and Josefas…..please, have a good day all of you.
    Here also is father’s day, so I want to wish happiness to all fathers and of course to all not fathers too.

  6. elcomandant says:

    It’s a nice story. When I was reading it, I was seeing in my mind the same I had seen in many american movies. Really, when I was young I had liked to have had a work like that to be able to earn some money.

    I don’t know how the newspaper’s information works in your country, but here in Spain you would need to read at least two of theirs. One of each political tendence. For instance, if you read the newspaper named “EL PAIS”, you will think that you live in the best country of the world, thanks to Mr. Zapatero, socialist and President of Spain. However, if you read the newspaper named “EL MUNDO” you think that this country is governed by the worst Presidente of the world. Which should I believe?.

    The question is a little difficult to answer. I think is a personal thing. What I want to say is that, if you are a person who have socialist ideas, you will only read what you want or like to hear. Otherwise, if you have conservative ideas you will only read the another newspaper. However, if you are independent or liberal or you don’t have a prefixed idea, you should read as many newspapers as be posible to find out the truth.

    This way, in Spain you had needed (using the same word that you used) to toss at least two newspapers at my house.


  7. Julio says:

    Certainly, this topic has a great similarity to when we have talked about mailservice’s deliver. This is a new era, and something else like that it will change within more or less time, due to the fact of how the new technologies are affecting our daily life. As everything happens, we can consider it, like the well-known example, by looking at either a medium-full bottle or a medium-empty one. In this sense, undoubtely it´s a pain that such jobs tend to dissapear, but at the same time it’s very good for all of us can enter on the internet and to be able to get practically for free any type of information in any newspaper online we want to choose.
    The media sector I think is into a actual change, mainly for the internet’s new habits of comsumption y many people believe that is going to change sooner than we could expect, probably by eliminating the chance of free access to every newspaper’s web site and likely demanding previously, from the vast majority of them, a subscription or a payment to us.
    Anyway, very interesting, Dr. Jeff.
    Best regards from Spain,

  8. parham says:

    Hi Jeff ,
    Why you wrote would be dropped off ,not weren’t dropped off? I know for a repeated action that happened for a period of time in the past we can use would ,but it is not the case here ,is it?

    Preferably, I would use would ,like you did,but I don’t know why.I just do it because I heard it a lot.And ,It is not a good ,solid grammer reason upon which one bases their sentence structures.

  9. Tania Misaras says:

    Hi! A Roumanian proverb says ” who gets up early in the morning , far arrives ” similar with the English proverb “It’s the early bird that catches the worm ” .
    It is suitable and for a paperboy. Still, at 5:00 AM… for a little boy …
    Only with huge effort you can be a special person. And all reporters are very , very special. Many reporters give / offer us their life for interesting news .
    They leave their home , their friends just for good news . They are extraordinary .
    So , I prefer to read a newspaper . You can feel better the reporter’s soul .

    All the best for you all.

  10. Loreto says:

    I have just arrived to ” ESL Podcast” , but I am charmed to meet you! I’m on time to join this Web. Thanks Jeff
    It would be many comments to do, over all that I have read today,……. I spent more than two hours reading the blog, but in summary, it have been “A lot and interesting things” . And with a occasional “humorous touch”of Jeff, that always are wellcome.
    Due to what I’ve seen up until now, there are many compatriots of mine, Spanish people, and I miss my loved land, Spain………: Greetings to all since “Beatiful Los Angeles California” and of course, Greeting, all people to the others parts of the world .
    Thanks all the “ELS team” that makes possible this website.


  11. pedro says:

    Dear parham,as you seem to know the modal verb “would” is commonly used to talk about things in the past that happened often or always.But why?(you may be asking)Well,that’s the way it is,whether you like it or not.Sometimes is better not to think about why some things are said in one way instead of the other.
    When I began to learn english I WOULD always ask the teacher :Why should I say “in the morning” instead of “by the morning”? Look carefully at this example:
    This book was written by Charles Dickens (english)vs Este libro fue escrito por Charles Dickens(spanish).In this sentence I translate “by” as “por”.
    But look at this:
    I drink coffee in the evenings (english)vs (Yo)bebo café por las tardes(spanish).In this sentence I translate “in” as “por”,the same as in the previous sentence.
    Well,when you are beginning to learn a new language you use your own language to learn another,like a kind of crutch,but when you are beginning to gain confident in the new language is much better to forget your own language as much as you can.The idea is trying to think only in english when you listen or read something and let’s change gears.

    You know guys,in a few years time I think I’ll say to Mr so-and-so something along the lines of:
    “Yeah,of course I speak english perfectly.What? you want to know my secret?well,my secret has a name,and his name is Jeff McQuillan.What? You don’t know him?Well,that surprise me,my friend,because he is a famous writter from the US,he writes mostly non fiction books about his life and his career as a professor ,but when I was younger he used to teach english.He had a podcast called…oh,my god,what was it called?Damn,I don’t remember anything nowdays and I used to remember everything,but I WOULD always listen to him,he was a great teacher,I didn’t understand his sudden decision at first,because his first book wasn’t very successful, but when his next book hit the New York Times Bestseller list at number one for 20 consecutive weeks,I realized he’d left us for good.Yeah,it’s very sad,isnt’t it?But he is rolling in it now,so I’m glad for him(I suppose)”

    Well, we all hope that in a few years time we’ll still be able to listen to ESLpodcast because fortunately this was just a horror story,…or maybe it wasn’t.

  12. emiliano says:

    Good, Pedro, very good indeed, your English is going on so fast that I am impressed, and may be your dreams should be true along the years as I said before Jeff is nearly as good writer as teacher.
    You write quite good also, congratulations, I have been amusing with your ideas about future, but sure he´ll don’t leave us despite his great success as a writer.
    That’s for sure, I know it quite well.
    He and Lucy love teaching and they know perfectly well that we their pupils, round the world, love them too.
    This is priceless, few people get it along their lives.

  13. parham says:

    Hi pedro,

    Thanks for the input. the thing is ,the modal verb ,if you will, would is multifounctional. By that I mean, It acts like a chameleon ;it changes its character according to the concept it is in. Although I know the most part of it, just kidding I dont know squat about it , I just wanted to get either Jeff or Lucy to put more details to it. Believe you me , it would be useful for all of us. Mark my word my friend, the better you know would, The better your English get.

    I really appriciate you sharing your insight with us,though.

    All the forces with you

  14. elcomandant says:

    Hi Loreto, welcome to the ESLPod Blog.

    I’m Spaniard too, and I’m learning English like you, although it seems you know quite more than me.

    Nice to meet you Loreto. I hope to read soon your comments.

    Take care.

  15. Elisângelo says:

    hi everybody…. geez! Pedro, it was really nice of you to make it clearer the subject in case to our friend parham. I was about to take this matter and explained in my own way, but you did it well.

    Actually, we all still not so sure about whether which preposition we should use at certain ordinary expressions in day to day speeches. But as you pointed it out, the KEY point is not atempt to fit a foreing language ( the second one you start to learn) into our own language’s rules, which cause sometimes a tight in our heads.

    As you also said right above… it is pretty wisely to use our native language to learn a second language like as a bridge of comprehension, So we gotta think in one sentence as a whole sense and not word by word since in english a single word usually has a different meaning than if it was placed inside of a expression.

    Anyway, I welcome perham… to our eslblog and welcome also to Loreto to the eslpodcast. I hope you like so much of the eslpod and if it do, tell some else about it. By doing this you guys will be prevent us to have a such horrible nightmare or apocalypse that pedro just predicted it.

    Well, however, I hope this never turn out!

    best regards to all of you members of eslblog,

  16. Elisângelo says:

    well, I also would like to speak out about the topic in matter. This is a such terrible thing that one thing got to place over the other in order to make it better or modern. Perhaps, it is also too much contradictory; cause how you can feel more free and have easeir ways to have access to the news by the modern ways if the very modern ways are killing the sources from where the information are created come from.

    In Brasil we still have this paperboys that jeff told about it; despite the growth majority has been getting born with a computer on the lap, there still being those who are growing older and still lover from physical newspaper.

    By the way, jeff… thanks a lot for provide us with such a good memories from yours, I really enjoy a lot to hear them from you.
    Actually, I was missing it alredy!

    ELS Team have a good week!

  17. emiliano says:

    Wellcome Loreto to this ESLPOD BLOG where all blogers are like friends to me.

    So as I may understand reading your comment you are living in the beautiful city?. Tell us, is it as Jeff has told us so frecuently?

    Any way, you are very wellcome to this place and I agree with you that there are a lot of spaniards learning English and wiriting in this blog. Why?
    May be the mouth to mouth is a good way of sharing good news and we are very fond to do this way of telling everybody how good ESL is.

    Nearly since three years I have been informing everybody here in Madrid that if they want to learn English propperly they have to listened to ESL POD, and doing that
    they would have also great fun what is even quite important.

    I think also that we spaniards are very fond to debate about everything, and this is a good place to do it as Lucy and Jeff post to interest points continuously.

    See you soon.

  18. ho-sun says:

    Fitters are survivors in this highly competitive society. Technology and continuous innovations are ruthless to obliterate the old memories of some people who like to cherish the past. Give and take is often the realistic hassle one has to figure out. Does it stand to reason that resisting against the cost-effective means of enjoyment in favour of embracing the obsolete stuff? Any day can be yesterday!

  19. Elisângelo says:

    hello again everybody…. well I noticed that the matter of how used the modal verb ” WOULD” is still shifting…. so I check out one of those english cafe that make some reference to this topic and I found it….

    … so, Perham… if you were willing to take a look closier in this matter, you should check it out the ENGLISH CAFE # 142 , which one make some relative to the modal verb ( would).

    I know it is quite a bit different of the subject in question ( would be X were /was ) , but you might be able to figure out what`s the differences are between the case of either use of it.

    thanks a lot for you interest in lift up the doubt about this topic.

    best regards,

  20. Rodrigo says:

    Today, there is a interesting report at CNN webpage about this matter tittled “Bad news days for newspaper biz”, it says that newspapers in Seattle, Tucson, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities at the States are facing problems and are near to shut down, basically for the competence of the new technologies…

  21. Peter says:

    Dear A-Lister Jeff ,

    I got the massage you are trying to get across. Infact ,starting yesterday, Reading newspaper every single day is my task and making a habit out of it is my religion. clearly ,you are very well-read,no question about that. And ,I guess when you mention that you have been reading papers since always ,you are alluding that we must do so in order to get a better grasp of your mother tongue. Thanks bro ;as always ,I follow your lead.

    Thanks Jeff and asociate for helping me snap out of it and realize such a blissful ignorance I was . Of course ,before joining you guys.

  22. Elly Cao says:

    Kindly, Jeff presented us such nice and warm pictures through his experiences and memories.cereal – breakfast, father read the newspaper and so forth. also that makes me think of my childhood….even though time has gone! But with the new- tech era coming,all of us should apply to the new modern world,no matter how good or bad! anyway, everyone has his different thoughts. Believe the future will be better,and enjoy anything !

    by the way, thanks for ESL – team hard working !

  23. Maria from Kazakhstan says:

    Hi Jeff!

    I think the disappearance of papers is a most distressing tendency. But it has one’s good sides. The main of them – environmental protection, because you know pulp-and-paper industry damage to the environment. The less paper use the less forest cut down. Do you agree with me?

    P.S When I was a schoolgirl I worked in the ecological unit:)


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