It still beats mining coal

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 16, 2004

This is a wonderful business we’re in.

Rarely is one day similar to the next; you get to meet lots of people; we help people sell things they are trying to get rid of; we can help charities and civic groups publicize their events so that they can raise more money for worthy causes; some times we get to expose the bad guy; and we get the opportunity through our opinion page to change our community, hopefully for the better.

Those are among the reasons I love being in the newspaper business, and for me, being from West Virginia, it’s particularly attractive because it’s so rare that you have to spend eight hours 1,500 feet underground digging coal, as many in my family have done.


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While the work can at times be intellectually, emotionally and physically demanding, it’s usually fun and interesting. It gets in your blood.

The week that just ended, however, is one I would like to soon forget. Illnesses and computer problems have driven many of us, and our customers, to the brink.

Over the course of the past week, two of our carriers &uot;dumped&uot; their routes on us. Dumped is how we describe it when we show up in the morning and there are piles of undelivered newspapers in the warehouse and the voice mail system is full of complaints from justifiably angry customers.

Contractually, your Suffolk News-Herald carrier is required to have a trained substitute who can run his route in the event of illness or other emergency. Their contract also calls for giving the newspaper 30 days notice of their intent to terminate the contract.

It’s rare that both of those stipulations are fulfilled. So when we find ourselves with an undelivered route, we have someone from the office that runs it. That person had two down routes on her lap this week when she became ill. Then a day later, another carrier who had two routes he delivered became ill and there we were with four routes down at once and nobody to deliver them.

We covered the best we could. One morning advertising staff members Earl Jones, April Carter, Linda Bundy, and Sue Barnes delivered one route; we found other carriers to cover as best we could and before the week was out we wound up putting two of the routes in the mail.

Inevitably, amid the chaos, some customers did not receive their papers in a timely manner, if at all. There’s no excuse for that and I apologize for it. While events rarely transpire as they did this past week, we are going to work hard to see that we have a plan in place to assure timely delivery, regardless of the circumstances.

As if that weren’t enough, that computer virus which broke out last weekend found a hospitable home at the News-Herald.

We have a mix of computers here – from Apples in our graphics and classified advertising departments to older Windows 95 and 98 machines that we are slowly updating with Windows XP machines in news, advertising circulation and accounting. The virus that hit us struck the XP machines with a vengeance, shutting down e-mail and Internet access, and in some cases knocking units out completely. Before the week was out we ended up purchasing three new units and were fortunately able to recover the systems on two computers but lost all the data on one.

The missed deadlines that resulted from computers being out of commission compounded the delivery situation.

As I write this, though, the computer problems are momentarily settled, our ill carriers are back on the job and things are returning to normal. And while normal at a newspaper is typically a chaotic and high-pressure environment, it sure beats the heck out of coal mining.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or via e-mail at