Jim Witt

Despite worst conditions in decades, our carriers eventually got most papers delivered

In terms of weather, the past five days were not the worst we’ve ever endured. It wasn’t the most ice/sleet/snow we’ve ever suffered through. And we’ve been colder plenty of times.

But in terms of road conditions to deliver a newspaper, this was probably the worst since the ’60s. Certainly the worst since I came to the Star-Telegram in January 1986. Mike Fillner, area manager of our audience development department, says it’s the worst he’s seen in his nearly 50 years at the paper — 12 years as a carrier and 36 as a delivery manager.

For the first time either of us can remember, we were unable to deliver all the papers on the same day we printed them.

If you’re a subscriber, you might already know that. My Friday paper by some miracle was in the yard by 6 a.m., but Saturday’s didn’t come and Sunday’s didn’t make it until about 3 p.m.

My Monday paper showed up on time (along with the Saturday paper I missed).

But I want to give a shout-out to the hundreds of men and women who braved the elements to try and deliver your paper, no matter how successful they were.

They were up at 3 a.m. every day, trying to get to your house. Often they couldn’t make it. The side roads were too slick, the bridges and overpasses on the main roads were too dangerous or were blocked by bogged-down cars and trucks.

Two carriers suffered broken hips making their rounds, another dislocated his shoulder, one broke an arm, another suffered a knee injury and yet another had to go to the emergency room to get stitches after a bad fall.

Many carriers who slid into ditches waited more than five hours to be rescued.

A few of the heroes: South Arlington carrier Molly Anderson was kicked by her horse a day before the storm, resulting in stitches and a possible broken leg. She didn’t miss a beat and made her deliveries every day.

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Another carrier in Arlington, Charles Wylie, is past retirement age and has had both knees replaced, yet was dedicated enough to deliver to all his customers and fulfill all special-delivery requests.

Steve Bettinger in North Richland Hills spent 14 hours each day braving the elements to make sure all his customers received a paper; the same can be said for Jerry Brothers, who delivers in Azle. There are dozens of stories like these.

I didn’t miss my papers. I was safe and warm in my living room, reading the Star-Telegram’s e-edition, the electronic version of the paper that is available on your computer or your tablet if you’re a subscriber and have enabled your digital access.

It was right on time, about 5:30 every morning.

Many of you joined me. We generated about 1.5 million more page views on our digital products than the previous Sunday. The most-read story was, of course, a weather story — but the second most-read was one headlined “Where’s My Paper?”!

The weather and our delivery problems prompted us to offer free access to our digital editions for several days.

But if you want permanent access, you can buy a print subscription and get the e-edition and all our websites and digital products for prices ranging from $16.04 a month for the Wednesday and Sunday papers to $22.94 a month for all seven days.

And there are other packages if neither of those two options is just right for you. Or you can get a digital-only subscription for $6.95 a month (99 cents to try it for a month).

Call 1-800-776-7827 to enable digital access if you’re already a print subscriber or go to star-telegram.com/plus. You can also call that number to get credit for any papers you missed during the past few days.

I love reading the printed paper, but this past weekend was another reminder of why I like the e-edition. It looks just like the pages of the paper. I can make the type as big or small as I want. I don’t get ink on my hands. The pages aren’t ever wrinkled and the print is never too light.

If I find an article I want to share with my friends, I can easily e-mail it or post it on Twitter or Facebook.

When I say that to people, they sometimes answer: “Boy, not me. I have to hold it in my hands.” Me, too — I read the e-edition on my iPad, where I can “turn” the pages.

I ask them to hand me their cellphone, and I put it in my pocket.

“Why would you need this?” I ask. “After all, isn’t that land-line telephone at home good enough for you? Why don’t you just stick with that traditional device that can only make phone calls?

“Why mess with this new technology that can do so much more? It was good enough for Alexander Graham Bell, wasn’t it? Maybe you’d like to go back to having a party line and placing all your calls through the operator?”

Sometimes they even see the point.

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