The Boston Globe has taken a hit in the past week, as thousands of subscribers missed getting their daily deliveries. But while the Globe hasn’t managed to resolve the problem, as problems go… it could be a whole lot worse.
For example, in 1995, 25 hundred employees of the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News went on strike. Fordham University professor Chris Rhomberg wrote a book about the strike called “The Broken Table.” The papers brought in replacement workers – otherwise known as scabs – to report, edit and deliver the newspapers.
“They brought in people who were really unfamiliar with the neighborhoods, even from out of state. And literally gave them tape recorders to give them instructions on which houses to go to and how to deliver the papers,” said Rhomberg.
And they did one thing the Globe almost certainly wouldn’t consider.
“In many cases they were just delivering papers to every house, in order to make sure they covered at least those who had already paid.”
They started having street hawkers sell the papers – and even started distributing them at churches on Sundays. It took five years to resolve the strike and they lost a third of their subscribers. And that was just about the time people started reading papers online, so they never got a lot of those people back.
More recently, delivery drivers from the Orange County Register in California sued the paper in 2014 for not paying them. So the paper switched to a new distributor, which wasn’t able to handle the situation and people didn’t get their papers delivered for weeks,
That new distributor was ACI Media Group – the same company the Globe switched to last week. Gustavo Arellano is the editor of OC weekly, and he covered the Register’s problems.
“The paper then started asking its reporters, editors, anyone and everyone to start delivering the paper,” said Arellano.  Things were already pretty bad at the Register, he said, and that request from management crushed the staff’s morale.
“It got so bad for the Register that some readers, some subscribers put it upon themselves to deliver papers for their fellow neighbors because neither the Register reporters or the delivery drivers were able to do that," Arellano said. "And this was going on for weeks.”
Even though reporters, editors and other staff at the Boston Globe did wind up delivering Sunday morning’s paper, there’s one key difference with what happened in Orange County. The Globe staff took it upon themselves to deliver those papers.
“We’re never going to ask staff to deliver newspapers,” said Boston Globe CEO Mike Sheehan. “This was a hand-raising experience and it was wonderful to watch, and it was great. We want our journalists creating journalism, not delivering newspapers. We want our delivery company delivering newspapers – 100 percent of them, on time, in the right place, every day.”
And although he can’t say for sure when that’s going to happen, Sheehan now says he expects to see a dramatic improvement over the next two weeks. He wouldn’t elaborate how that’s going to happen, but the Globe is reporting that the paper is considering bringing on a second distributor.  Sheehan acknowledges the delivery problems have definitely had an impact on their customers.
“But I think long term, the quality product of the Globe is a must-have for so many people that we will win back their trust over time," Sheean said. "I’m sure of that.”
In the meantime, the new Globe distributor, ACI, is frantically trying to hire more drivers to get papers back on people’s front steps.