A newspaper on automatic

Some things you can rely upon – death and taxes. And The Chapel Hill News in your driveway, whether you want it or not.

That’s why Judith Siegel spoke to the Town Council at Monday night’s business meeting. Siegel, who has lived in Chapel Hill for 32 years, stood before the council and implored its members to help her with the problem — the paper shows up in her driveway twice a week, even though she doesn’t want it and has made that clear repeatedly to the paper’s circulation department. She has talked to the circulation manager and to her carrier. Neither could help her.

It’s a common complaint. When I worked for the paper in the newsroom, I often got calls from folks who wanted delivery stopped. The callers usually had found no satisfaction with their phone-tree contacts and were searching for a live human to complain to. I always patiently took down the complaint and contact information and then took a walk downstairs to hand-deliver it to a circulation representative. I knew the only positive thing that would come out of it was a little exercise for me. And I always knew that the person I gave the message to would not be able to stop the paper.

Here’s the reality: The CHN is published not to keep people informed about their neighbors or town business. Rather, it’s an advertising vehicle for Durham and Raleigh businesses – in common parlance, a shopper. The paper’s owner, The News & Observer, has a contract with its advertisers that each edition will be delivered to 22,000 households. If those papers don’t reach all those addresses, the N&O would be in trouble with the folks who pay for the ads. The news is secondary at best, and it’s often painfully obvious that the decision-makers at The N&O would rather put anything but news in the paper.

The council received Siegel’s petition and Mayor Kleinschmidt promised her the town staff would come back with a recommendation to fix her problem. Siegel told me Wednesday afternoon that she did not receive a CHN that morning – the first time in three and a half months. She is keeping her fingers crossed because this has happened before – the paper will be stopped after she has called but will resume later.

The Chapel Hill News can seem more like a curse than a newspaper – it will never go away. You can’t stop an automatic newspaper. And you can’t stop death. But at least with death, there’s an end – The CHN seemingly will continue to be delivered even after death.

–Don Evans

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  1. A newspaper that we don’t pay for is given to us for advertising purposes??? I’m SHOCKED!!!

    Personally, I read my copy, and I find out stuff about Chapel Hill that I can’t find out any other way. I like the letters and columns (except from their realtors-can-do-no-wrong guy) and even learn useful stuff from the ads now and then.

    If you’ve ever met the poor “independent contractors” who deliver our papers, you’d just shut up and let them do their thankless job without adding to their burden, because you can bet that that the burden will fall on them.

  2. But still, it would be nice to NOT get it if we know the destination will be straight to the recycle bin or trash can. If it hurts the ad revenue of the paper to be guaranteed to fewer households, well, boo-hoo.

  3. Frank

     /  September 30, 2010

    For all of the Andy-Rooney-esque grumpy old-man complaining in this blog, I’m not really shocked that our very own Andy Rooney’s haven’t thought to suggest an alternative source for local news.

  4. Mark Marcoplos

     /  September 30, 2010

    CHN has the best local high school sports coverage. They did the best job of any paper covering the attempt to site an airport in the county. The N&O is as much of a mediocre rag as any paper. Every day it’s just a crapshoot. Only when I go to on-line sources do I really find out what’s going on. But occasionally there’s good reporting. Just like NPR, you have to wade through the status quo spin to find some authentic reporting once in a while.

    The delivery issue is odd. Usually property rights are used to justify all sorts of anti-social things, but somebody can throw something you don’t want onto your property just because it’s good for the advertising business?

  5. Nancy and Don, I understand you have an unique perspective on the CHN that we don’t have but I know I still find it a valuable resource for tracking local news. Yes, there’s definitely bits and pieces I find problems with (mistakes and omissions slanting towards backdoor editorialization of news) which I usually send on to Mark and company. I hate how its been McClatchied but, overall, I think without it our community would be the lesser for it.

    I have my own home delivery horror story. We lived in a corner-lot house with two odd shaped driveways at the time. For some reason we would get double deliveries thrown into both drives plus one or more underneath the mailbox. At the time, the CHN, a much beefier source of material, made up a considerable part of our recycling. I had to call then editor Ted Vaden a dozen times over a 9 month period to finally get the 5 to 7 copies of the CHN delivered to our home pared down to one.

    Funny thing, when Ted was moved on, our delivery woes began again.

  6. steve peck

     /  September 30, 2010

    CHN is all of the above but we still read it. Since we take the N&O we get two copies a week. If anyone needs one we can help. Too bad for the trees and our green community.

    Have to take exception to Mark’s comment on the sports section. The bias toward ECH is so real and of long standing that it has become a source of smiles in our house. If CHN is the best that is only because it is the only source for local high school sports. Losing Eddy Lamdreth did not help.

  7. Joe Capowski

     /  September 30, 2010

    Don, there’s more to it, I think. The last two times that I have taken trips, I have
    called the N&O automated phone number to place a vacation stop on my paper.
    However the paper, like the energizer bunny, kept on coming. There’s a competence or
    communication problem in their circulation department.

  8. Runner

     /  September 30, 2010

    We call the CHN “The Paper of Frustration”. It keeps showing up in your driveway and the articles and letters just piss you off.

    Eventhough I would rather not get the paper, I always send the carrier a check at Christmas time.