We get these sorts of emails occasionally, and it’s about time I addressed them, just in case you’ve been on the receiving end of the venom. There are people in our community who have no use for The Leader.
Sometimes, the notes and phone calls are quite kind.
“Dear Leader, I appreciate what you do in our community, but I travel for a living and there are many weeks when I’m not home. When there are three or four papers piled on my driveway, it’s a safety hazard for our family.”
Normally, with a call or letter like that, the person gives us a street address and we stop throwing a paper the next week. (And actually, our carriers are told not to throw papers in yards where there are multiple editions for exactly that reason.)
Then, you get the calls and emails like the one that came last week from one of our neighbors. About a year ago, we were asked to stop throwing a newspaper to his home. He didn’t give a reason, except that he just didn’t want to read about his neighborhood.
As we try to do with every request, we stopped throwing a newspaper to his home. But as humans tend to do, one of our carriers made a mistake and accidentally delivered a paper to his home last week. Unleash the fury.
First, we got a call, which one of the nice ladies in our office answered. She asked to take a message because our circulation manager wasn’t in at the time, but that was not good enough. The shouting began. The anger that we would dare provide a free newspaper to this community was likened to near evil. I could hear the conversation half a building away.
Next came an email to any recipient this man could find. He said he was treated rudely on the phone, even though, as mentioned, I heard exactly how our staff member handled the call.
He didn’t stop there: He left something of a hysterical message with his homeowners’ association and, among other things, made the point that The Leader devalues the homes in Oak Forest because we throw newspapers in yards.
I think that last line is the one that got me most. Home values in Oak Forest have been devalued, and The Leader should shoulder the blame.
Before I go any further, let me be the very first to tell you – and admit to you – that our business is not a perfect one by any measure. Far from it.
For 65 years now, The Leader has been a mass-delivery newspaper whose business model is dependent upon reaching as many homes as possible. For perspective, I was about Negative-20 years old when The Leader started delivering newspapers in this community, and over the past six years, our company has done everything possible to improve the product we place in the yards of our neighbors every week.
Again, that doesn’t mean we’re perfect by any stretch. Earlier this week, I took my sons on a walk around the neighborhood. It had rained earlier that day, and there were homes – some of them right next door to our house – where soaking wet newspapers sat in the yard, impossible for anyone to read.
For all the hard work of our staff, it’s a little painful to see that folks would rather leave a wet newspaper in the driveway than simply toss it in the recycle bin. We pay to print those newspapers, and I know it’s frustrating to more than a few of us to see Leaders that aren’t picked up each week.
But I also know this: Each week we throw more than 30,000 copies of The Leader, and we average somewhere around five complaints a week. On any given week, two of those complaints are from people who don’t want the paper. Three of them are from people who didn’t get their paper and are upset we missed their homes.
Trust me, if we had a community full of people who didn’t want The Leader delivered, we certainly wouldn’t waste the money to print them, and we’d find new streets to deliver.
Every once in a while, though, someone screams loud enough and it grabs our attention – and maybe yours, too.
Now, back to that “devaluing property in Oak Forest” bit. Unless my eyes, ears and brain stopped working a few years ago, there are few neighborhoods in this entire city where home and lot values have appreciated as much as Oak Forest. I’m not sure you can buy a shovel of dirt on a lot for less than $300,000 anymore. I know for certain there are more $1 million homes than ever before, and I can guarantee that if you bought a home in Oak Forest a decade ago and sold that home today, you could afford the down payment on 80 percent of the homes inside the Loop.
No, I’m not arrogant enough to think The Leader has played any role in appreciating home values, but I know from the sheer number of calls we get that most people in this community actually enjoy reading about their neighbors and local businesses.
Even still, we know there are people who don’t want the newspaper, and we know we have a responsibility to our community to honor every request made to us. So, if you’re one of the folks who reads this weekly paper, and you have someone around your home who never picks up the paper, would you mind helping us a bit?
First, you might suggest your neighbors give the paper a shot for a couple of weeks. Open the pages and read about the new businesses in the area. Read about the people who make our community tick. Get angry (or fall in love with) Lynn Ashby all over again.
And if that doesn’t do the trick, will you kindly ask them to give us a call at (713) 686-8494, or email me directly? I promise we’ll answer the phone and put their homes on our do-not-deliver list. Sure, our carriers might slip up now and again, but for the most part, we’ll fulfill the request.