A majority of readers, I hope, got to this page by picking up a red wrapper on their lawns or driveways, then slipping out the paper and opening this newest issue of the Times. Often the red bag contains additional retail inserts.

To get that paper to readers’ driveways, independent contractor carriers pick up bundles of the Times trucked from the printer in Illinois to a storage facility in Brentwood. Most load their papers directly from the printer’s truck. They then roll each newspaper and slip it into the red bag. Some have crews that roll at home. Others have a roller who rides along on the route.

The carriers drive each street on their routes and throw the papers from open van windows. About 17 carriers have routes ranging from 1,400 papers to about 7,000 Times papers. This usually happens on Thursday evening so that the paper is available first thing Friday morning.

Each route has some addresses that request not to receive the paper. Carriers have to be on the lookout for those addresses, often very difficult to identify after dark. (It is helpful if such addresses are well-lit!)

Wind and weather often pose challenges in getting the papers to their intended targets beyond the curb line.

Nearly 30,000 Webster-Kirkwood Times get delivered this way. Over 32,000 South County Times papers are bagged and thrown each week. Over 11,000 Times papers are also available in free paper racks in supermarkets and in restaurants and other locations. Yes, the papers can also be read online, but those readers will miss what’s in the bag.

The red bag should be recycled with your plastic grocery bags at your local supermarket.

First Hand Experience

Recently a 30-year carrier had to suddenly abandon two routes. The circulation manager and I have been scrambling to find new permanent carriers. Meanwhile, one of those routes has been impressing on us the realities of delivery. Times staff members have been graciously bagging the papers for that route. And the circulation manager and I have been out on the late night circuit on Thursdays delivering papers.

We are slower than the normal carrier. The circulation manager has on his iPhone maps and stop delivery addresses. We peer into the dark for those elusive numerals.

Necks ache. We put on the flashers or pull over out of the way when there is traffic. We squeeze down dead-end streets between parked cars. I used to do this 40 years ago, but I still remember how to drive in reverse.

What this experience gives us is immense respect for those carriers who do this every week. It helps us be just a little less critical of occasionally imperfect delivery results.

And yes, there are openings for a couple of carriers to keep bringing you your community newspaper.