Archive for the 'newspapers' Category

Putting Humpty Dumpty back together again

February 21, 2016

My New York Times redelivery guy tells me that it’s his understanding that the delivery services in my area for The Boston Globe and The New York Times will be put back together again (see previous post), starting in about a week or so.  He anticipates another couple of weeks beyond that for the system to get up to speed.  He says The Globe has capitulated and is abandoning the new delivery scheme it tried to implement at the very end of last year and then tried to adjust later when that initial implementation failed.

Maybe this will have been like the New Coke?

I hope the news is correct and that the delivery system for both newspapers becomes reliable again.  And soon.

The redelivery guy told me a sad story about how the lack of Globe deliveries meant that friends of an elderly woman who had died were unable to read her obituary and did not know of her passing or her funeral service and therefore did not attend.

The problems for me from this delivery fiasco pale in comparison to that.

And indeed it’s nice to get to know my New York Times redelivery guy.  Reminds me of the blind men and the elephant story:  even a difficult situation can become an occasion for communication with others and yield positive results through that.

No delivery

February 20, 2016

We are back to no delivery of either print newspaper, The Boston Globe or The New York Times.

Requests for “redelivery” of the papers are sometimes filled, sometimes not.

Central customer service seems to concede that they still have a problem that is not going to get fixed anytime soon, as yesterday both offered me a week’s worth of credit going forward.

What they may not realize is that they are undermining their credibility about doing what they can to fix the problem.

What seems to be the problem is that their model for hiring drivers no longer makes economic sense for potential recruits.  Splitting off delivery of the Globe from delivery of other papers apparently broke the structure that allowed the regional delivery system to work.  Apparently the new routes are too long and inefficient for drivers to get finished in time to meet delivery deadlines or get to their other employment.  Delivering only one paper per house is also less lucrative for the driver.  One driver indicated that the pool of drivers is largely immigrant and vulnerable to exploitation, so I am wondering whether part of the reason that the feedback that the split needs to be undone is not being accepted is that the companies have assumed that they have enough leverage to make the new model work.

Since the driver I had in 2015 for the Times quit after losing the Globe part of his delivery work, no permanent replacement has been found by the service managing delivery of the Times.  I learn from central customer service for subscriptions for the Times when I call to report yet another missed delivery that my account is not assigned to a permanent driver.  A new Globe driver who came on board after a lengthy period of no delivery after the December 28th implementation of new system lasted only a few weeks.  Apparently there are not enough drivers to deliver the “redelivery” papers (those requested when the original copy was not delivered) reliably either.

So what are the delivery companies and the newspaper companies that hire them going to do?  Will they reunite the delivery systems for the different papers and go back to the status quo ante?  A redelivery driver for the Times some weeks ago told me that that he thought they would eventually do that but that it would take time.  He also claimed the problem was the result of a personal feud.  He said this accounted for the split itself and the abruptness of how the change was implemented.

Consumers seem to be the tail on the dog in all this.

On the one hand, I often read or hear that advertising in the print edition of a newspaper is an important source of revenue for journalism.  On the other hand, I would not be surprised to be informed at some point that subscriptions for home delivery of print papers will no longer be available in my area, if these companies cannot see their way to rebuilding a system that works, including cooperating with one another and being more realistic about driver needs.  I mean, how long can they go on saying they offer print subscriptions but not fulfill them?

In all fairness …

February 12, 2016

A few days ago I received an email addressed to “Home Delivery Subscriber” from The New York Times offering me a Starbucks gift card for $20 as a token of appreciation for our patience while they resolve the home delivery disruptions.  Since I’ve written about those disruptions on this blog, I thought it was only fair to write about this gift card.  I can also report that while neither paper was delivered by 6:30 a.m. this morning, they were both there by 8:30 a.m.  Both used to come well before 6:30, back before all this turmoil began.  So we’ve regained some ground, but overall, the service has been diminished.

With regard to the gift card, I had to remind myself not to look a gift horse in the mouth, because not only don’t I drink coffee, but I have a difficult time with patronizing Starbucks for anything.  I kind of gave up on using them after many unpleasant experiences.  Jordan says it’s mainly that the Starbucks nearest where we live is notably poor in service.  He likes the one in the center of town, and so when I received the email with the gift card, not only did I ask for Jordan’s help in accessing it, but I suggested he take it.  He put it on his Starbucks card.

Like most parents, I like it when somebody does something nice for my children, so from that angle, the gift card token was nice even if it was more in line with my child’s tastes.  And given our financial relationship, I do benefit in some way when Jordan receives Starbucks money on a gift card.  And, to be fair, it was only meant to be a token, not compensation, so there’s no saying it wasn’t helpful enough.

So there we are, enough of us apparently complained enough to get heard by the Senior Vice President for Consumer Marketing at The New York Times and receive something for all the missing and late newspapers.  But it doesn’t make me break out into a smile the way seeing the flock of robins alight in the rosebush in front of the Buddha statue in my backyard.  I think they are eating the rose hips.  There are certainly a lot of these robins.  Some of them also stand in the snow and stretch upwards to reach the food, kind of like the rabbits reaching up to eat the leaves on the bush during the summer.  That sort of treat makes me smile without thinking about it.

News access

January 31, 2016

I haven’t really changed how I access news, but the ground has been shifting, with the result that what used to work for me doesn’t, at least reliably, anymore.

For example, I was able to watch the first minutes of the Democrats’ town hall meeting last week, and then the website insisted I input a password from my cable subscription to continue.  Since I don’t have a cable subscription, and the other watching options I read about online required at least some sort of paid subscription to some company, I forwent the rest of the event.

On the other hand, I do pay for two print newspaper subscriptions, The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and their delivery became unreliable about a month ago.  We are still sorting through that.  My Times delivery has not yet been assigned to a new permanent driver, so sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.  The new Globe delivery person has already inserted one of those envelopes for remunerative consideration.

Then there’s streaming news broadcasts online.  The one I try to watch can be missing in action altogether or begin somewhat late into the program.  When I try to find it on a TV broadcast, I am not always successful, either.

Whatever the contributing factors are to these various situations, the net result is that things ain’t what they used to be.  I assume that for people using different means of access, ways of getting the news have improved, that I’m just not in the right segment, using the means being catered to now.

With the primary races for the presidential nominations going on right now, analysts sometimes try to figure out how people become disaffected.  I would say that these sorts of impersonal business decisions by multiple organizations simultaneously can produce a sense in the consumer of being left by the side of the road.  I don’t know, maybe there are other things to do along the road’s shoulder, like watching some birds or observing cows grazing, listening to water running over rocks in a stream, imagining what the clouds in the sky might resemble.  Lord knows, I always have plenty of chores and paperwork to do, I could cut back on how much time I spend taking in the news and put that time to other use.  It’s a thought.

 

Progress?

January 11, 2016

The Boston Globe attempted to change its delivery service vendor at the end on December, and managed to throw a monkey wrench into not only the delivery of its newspaper but the delivery of other newspapers to homes in the region.

I think many of us thought that the disruption to The Globe delivery would be something like a couple of days of non-delivery (we were given 2 coupons to obtain a paper for free at a store) and then some late deliveries.  But the new company hadn’t hired enough drivers and their software for planning routes was unable to handle the idiosyncratic layout of New England roads, and so the disruption was more like no papers for days stretching beyond a week.

And at the beginning of January, my delivery of The New York Times was also disrupted.

Now delivery has been restored, not quite to the level it was before the disruptions (papers have been arriving later in the day and not where they’re supposed to be left), but they seem to be coming again regularly.

What’s interesting, in this day and age of concern about carbon footprints, is that the two newspapers I subscribe to are now delivered by two separate drivers.  This is clear from when and where the respective papers arrive.

The Globe is apparently going to save some money from the new arrangements.

While cap-and-trade has always struck me as some kind of a kluge, this newspaper delivery situation makes it clear that the good of the environment is not always lined up with corporate profits.  One would think that it should be more profitable for everyone involved to have one driver deliver two papers to the same house, but apparently it isn’t.  That arrangement would also reduce the amount of gasoline consumed and exhaust vented.  But since profits lie elsewhere, two delivery services we have.

To paraphrase Tacitus, they make a less environmentally-friendly arrangement and call it progress.

City Hall Plaza

June 16, 2014

I didn’t know Boston’s City Hall Plaza had once included a fountain.  I learned that recently from the newspaper, and that the fountain had been discontinued because of water leaking into the subway tunnels.

At least the historical information made some sense out of the topography of the plaza, which I, like many, have found puzzling.

Wet newspapers

October 6, 2013

It’s raining, and I’m kind of glad, because it seems to me it hasn’t rained here for a long time.  I’ve been noticing that because we reseeded a couple of parts of the lawn and I’ve had to keep them moist by watering them with the hose.

But I realized when I heard the rain this morning that I was entering the “Will my newspaper be wet?” sweepstakes.

The bag to The Boston Globe was open, the bag to The New York Times knotted, so I brought them into the house thinking the Globe would be wet and the Times dry, but in fact the opposite proved to be the case.  (I think the tying of the bag for the Times may have ripped the bag in another place.)

I hate to let a good metaphor go to waste:  openness preserves our interiors better than trying to close ourselves off.

“Articles”

September 5, 2013

I began noticing commenters in the NYTimes comments sections referring to the pieces they were commenting on as articles.  This startled me when the piece in question was an opinion piece, what I think we used to call a column, a blog post, or an opinion piece — and I’m sure there are other designations as well.

I started off thinking it was one person’s usage, then when I saw it multiple times and from a number of different people, I thought, “It must be a new usage that got taught after I finished school.”  Then I noticed that the Times itself does it, too.  As in “Readers shared their thoughts on this article.”  I checked my recollection of this just now on a Paul Krugman column.  That’s what the notations says after the comments section has been closed.

I would not call an op-ed column an article.  I am not trying to be pedantic.  What concerns me is that this other usage blurs the distinction between news and opinion, and unnecessarily, it seems to me.  If the Times is unwilling to sort their pieces into specific categories and wants to use a catch-all term instead, I wouldn’t choose “article.”  I associate “article” with factual news story.  If “piece” is too vague, then I’m sure somebody can come up with a better term than that, too.

Syria coverage

September 1, 2013

I am annoyed enough by the media coverage of what, if anything, we should do in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, to write something about it here.

The issue, I think, is a difficult one, and it seems to me that the media is cleverly trying to sidestep the real difficulties with the substance of the matter by focusing on President Obama’s words about a red line and such;  the implication seems to me to be that if President Obama hadn’t said those words, we wouldn’t be faced with a difficult issue.  Reminds me of children trying to hide from fire in a closet or under a bed.

But I gather that a lot of people find it much more to their liking to cover political jockeying than to grapple with difficult issues.

Interference

April 26, 2013

I was mildly curious to hear about the claim that the Boston Marathon bombers had planned to bomb Times Square subsequently.  I had seen some headlines, hadn’t read much, and thought I’d catch it on the evening news.

I turned on the PBS NewsHour at six p.m., and just as it was getting started, Gita telephoned.  By the time we were done, it was almost 6:30, so I figured I’d try the network evening news casts, I tune into one, and then my furnace decides to kick on (it heats the hot water, as well as providing room heat).  This is a process that can take a long time as we near the time for the furnace’s annual tune-up.  While the furnace is in that ignition process, it apparently draws enough electricity to interfere with something in the process through which I get my television signal.   (I have a funky electrical system, which I don’t think is unusual for an old house, and the lights dim a bit too during the furnace ignition process.)   So again, no news for me on this lead story.

Maybe I don’t need to hear this news?