NPR-San Francisco Affiliate, KQED Radio Perspectives Series
Holly Hubbard Preston had never met the person who delivers her newspaper in the middle of every night. She decided to change that.
Every morning before dawn, a newspaper or two lands on my driveway with a thump.
While usually still asleep when this happens, on occasion I catch a glimpse of my newspaper carrier, Grace Marroquin, as she motors by.
There are presently about 1,000 newspaper carriers left in the U.S.—Grace being one.
While Grace and I exchange holiday cards every year, we’d never met. As a journalist and longtime print subscriber, I understand how much reliable carriers like Grace sustain the newspaper industry. It didn’t seem right we weren’t better acquainted.
I reached out to Grace over email about a meet-up, explaining I wanted to know more about her work life. “No one’s ever asked me that,” she wrote back. We met over Zoom a few days later and spoke for an hour.
A married mother of six, Grace started delivering newspapers in the Napa Valley 22 years ago. Contracted by a distributor, she works seven days a week from 10 pm until 5:30 am, folding, stuffing, and delivering papers for some 600 customers.
She’s never once called in sick and rarely takes time off for vacation. It’s not easy finding someone to fill-in on the fly, Grace said. Plus, she doesn’t want to leave her customers in the lurch. Grace clearly cares about her customers, most of whom she can list by name and address. During off hours, she often fields calls and emails from older customers uncomfortable with online subscriber services.
Alone with the radio for company, she puts in 100 miles nightly. For how much longer Grace can’t say. She’s 48 now. Gas is expensive and her hips and throwing arm are giving her trouble. Given declining print subscriptions, she wonders if the industry might quit before she does.
Grace hopes not, as do I. I don’t want my news delivered by an algorithm.
With a Perspective, I’m Holly Hubbard Preston.