Committed to better delivery

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2007

The first step toward fixing a problem is acknowledging its existence.

So here goes: Our delivery service needs work. That’s not news to the many readers who have been frustrated by inconsistent delivery of their newspaper in recent months. Late delivery — and sometimes none at all — has been far too common for some customers.

We’ve made great strides at the newspaper over the past year in many areas. We’ve added a third edition, improved our content and design, launched a Web site, and fully renovated our Armory Drive office, among other accomplishments. Regrettably, amid all that progress, delivery service has regressed.

Delivery, if not the most important component in publishing a good newspaper, certainly is a final, essential step — and can make a lot of other hard work for naught.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that we’re committed to doing better — primarily by devoting more resources to the circulation department.

The first step was the hiring of Frank Harrell as circulation route manager. Harrell, a veteran newspaper carrier and longtime resident of this area, will be the newspaper’s liaison with our carriers, who work as independent contractors.

Our carriers do a terrific job for the most part. Many of them have delivered their routes for years and rarely make mistakes. We’ve done a poor job, however, of training new carriers, who have a tough job when they take over a route. Delivery usually occurs in the wee hours of the morning, when visibility, especially on rural roads, is lacking. Finding a particular house in the middle of the night can be a challenge.

Harrell’s job is to work with carriers in learning their routes and to help them fix recurring problems. If you are experiencing chronic delivery problems, call Harrell at 562-3187 and let him know.

To supplement Harrell’s efforts, we’ve hired Debra Boothe as a customer service representative. She too is a former newspaper carrier — and a hard worker with a pleasant personality. Debra comes in each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning to answer calls about delivery problems. If you miss your paper, call Debra at 562-3187 between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. and she’ll bring you a copy that same morning.

Finally, if you’ve worked with our staff and still can’t get results, call me personally at 562-3187, ext. 304, or send an e-mail to so I can get involved.

Collectively, we will fix the problem. That’s our promise to you, our readers. We hope you’ll hold us to it.

Steve Stewart is publisher of The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is