I delivered newspapers when I was a kid. The worst parts of the job were weather, dogs, crabby old people, and trying to remember which porches were supposed to get a paper.
That last part was harder than it sounds. Back in the day, the only location software available to a carrier was stored in a preadolescent head. Trying to access it while pedaling a bike uphill with 200 pounds of rain-soaked newspapers was next to impossible.
There was no internet. No Google Maps. No GPS. No Wi-Fi. No “Where the #&%@! Am I?” apps. The only electronic helps we had were doorbells and porch lights.
Without a doubt, though, what I most loathed was collecting. Once a month, I had to contact all the subscribers and ask them to pay up. If they stiffed me, the money for the papers came out of my pocket.
“You were late all of last week,” someone would say, while dribbling a few coins in into my hand. “Do a better job next week.”
“The dog tore up my Sunday paper. Put it behind the screen door from now on.”
“You missed me yesterday, and I was going to call your supervisor. Oh, wait. There it is.”
“Tell your bosses to stop printing so many stories about…”
Because I was trying to get them to cough up what they owed, my only option was to keep my mouth shut and make a mental note of which houses on my route deserved special attention come Halloween.
On Thursday, The Salt Lake Tribune began charging for subscriptions to our online content. Judging from the immediate feedback, the “pay wall” plan has drawn mixed reactions.
On email and Facebook, opinions are distinctly polarized about whether our digital product is worth a modest monthly tab.
“It’s a small price to pay to read a column from someone who can make me laugh.”
“Goodbye, Kirby. I’m not paying for your trash.”
I’m glad it won’t be me trying to get people to pay for something they have been getting for free. If the information age has succeeded in making consumers more informed, it certainly hasn’t made them more polite.
But then what can you expect from a species whose appetite for news is rivaled by its hunger for porn?
Wait a minute. Maybe I should tap into this salacious nature. Would you pay extra to get the unedited versions of my columns, some of which my editor says have come close to summoning Satan?
Or perhaps some lively give-and-take with my many critics.
Him/Her • “I’ve been reading your column online for years. You’re lame and stupid. I’m not paying to read your s---.”
Me • “Hey, I’m writing this stuff because I get paid. Meanwhile, you’ve intentionally been subjecting yourself to it for free for years. Tell me again which one of us is stupid?
You would, of course, eventually have to pay for the privilege of posting a retort at the end of that, which is only fair given that you’ve had a free forum for your bigotry and hate all this time. Either way it’s a win for us.
On the other hand, maybe you’re a sensible person simply interested in keeping an independent voice alive in the community, which The Tribune has been doing for a century and a half — and will continue to do, even though it sometimes means a voice independent of yours.