They brave all odds to deliver news on time

Today is Newspaper Distributors Day

The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the city’s lifestyle and rendered the busy streets nearly silent for many days. But a small section of the people continued its daily routine tirelessly, braving the odds.

Newspaper vendors and distributors continue to go about their routine of bundling newspapers, fixing routes and racing for delivery before dawn, even while most of the city is in slumber.

Ranjithavalli Rajesh, a newspaper distributor in R.A. Puram, has not missed being at the distribution point to receive newspapers along with delivery persons for the past 15 years. What started as a help to a relative has now turned into a career, she recounted on the eve of World Newspaper Distributors Day, which falls on Saturday.

“I wake up at 3 a.m. daily. I don’t get to attend early morning functions. But I don’t regret it. I have delivered newspapers during tough situations like floods, cyclones and the pandemic to reach them at doorsteps on time. I started with the distribution of 700 copies; it has grown to 1,700 now,” she said.

Vendors recalled the days when they had to wade through knee-deep water during the floods to deliver papers.

M. Rahul took up the part-time job as delivery person a decade ago. On average, he delivers newspapers to about 60 houses and sometimes 100 a day. “I don’t need an alarm to wake up and don’t mind the chill mornings or rain. But I am careful that the newspapers shouldn’t get wet.”

Over the last decade, several of them have switched over from bicycles to motorcycles for quicker delivery.

Dealing with customers’ fears, labour shortage and a drop in readership was a major challenge for newspaper distributors during the pandemic. But patient service and awareness of COVID-19 safety norms have helped many of them win back subscribers.

A. Latif Ahmed, a distributor at Nanganallur, said newspapers continued to be an addiction for many readers as it documented events.

“Media houses must consider printing QR code for more news reports to attract youngsters to read newspapers on the go,” he said.

Many delivery persons and distributors have built a personal rapport with customers, and some of them have even received employment offers through readers.

C. Kanthan, a painter-cum-delivery boy, said, “I deliver 200 copies a day by 7.30 a.m. People sometimes invite me home for a cup of coffee or give raincoats. One customer even helped my daughter get school admission. Newspaper delivery has become my morning routine like a cup of tea.”

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