On Sept. 4, 1833, the New York Sun anointed Irish-born Barney Flaherty into a then-very promising profession. The ten-year-old was the nation’s first paperboy and in his honor each year since, the fourth of September is marked by some as National Newspaper Carrier Day.
Not too many papers today are celebrating the occasion. In fact, over at USA Today, the “Extra! Extra! Read All About It!” cries have everything to do with the twilight era of a paperboy and papergirl’s business.
Nevertheless, Christian Science Monitor reporter Lisa Suhay has some fascinating info on how the profession stacks up, 181 years later:
Today, according to John Murray, vice president of Audience Development at the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), nearly 80 percent of carriers are adults, and even though subscribers are now billed directly by the newspapers, 95 percent of all carriers are still independent contractors just like the original paper boys.
The main reason the job has transitioned mostly to adults is due to the evolution of newspapers, both in overall size (including more circulars), and broader distribution. Often distribution hubs are located far from most carriers’ homes and daily deliveries include burgeoning routes with as many as seven different newspaper titles being delivered by a single carrier, which make it too difficult for a child on a bike to manage, according to Murray…
According to Murray, children who do have a paper route these days either live in very small communities, or are sub-contracted by enterprising adult carriers who have grown their paper routes into small empires by taking on the delivery of multiple title deliveries.
Per Suhay, a good way to mark today’s Day is to peruse the NAA’s Newspaper Carrier Hall of Fame honor roll. It’s a long, diverse list that includes Tom Brokaw, Julius Irving and J. Edgar Hoover.