Joan Betterton doesn’t own a telephone — landline or mobile. Or a computer. She doesn’t know how people use new technology to get the news.
But she understands the financial pressures that are changing the newspaper industry.
Betterton is one of more than 20 carriers who will deliver their last papers Friday as The Daily Astorian switches to triweekly print publication and delivery by the U.S. Postal Service next week.
Originally from Nebraska, Betterton moved to Knappa at age 7. She and her husband returned in 1992 to take care of her aging mother. It was then that she was asked by her nephew’s wife about subbing as a carrier for the newspaper.
“The first time she took me out there I was like, ‘Oh, I’m never going to learn it. I’m going to get lost,’” she said.
But she quickly learned the job, eventually took over deliveries to Arch Cape and later switched to the Warrenton-Hammond area, where she’s been delivering papers since the mid-1990s.
Over the years, she has seen the papers she delivered five times a week start at 300, grow to 350 and shrink to 200 as her customers aged.
“The younger ones are going on these new machines,” Betterton said. “I don’t have a cellphone. I don’t have a computer. I know nothing about them.”
What Betterton does know is reliability as a carrier and the relationships she’s built over time. Many of her customers eagerly await her visits as a chance to socialize. Some bring her snacks and drinks on a hot day. One customer who has a garden leaves her fresh produce in the newspaper tube.
“It’s like a tip they give me,” she said.
At 78, Betterton is the second-oldest carrier for The Daily Astorian. Her daughter and granddaughter have also both worked as carriers.
Jeremy Feldman, the circulation manager for The Daily Astorian, said carriers range in age from 25 to 80 but trend older, with about two-thirds at retirement age. Together, they have delivered papers to 46 routes across Clatsop County and on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula.
“It’s sad to see the carriers go away … but I think it’s necessary to continue regular delivery and consistent delivery,” he said.
The carriers were a good workforce, Feldman said, but it was becoming increasingly difficult in a tight job market to find new ones for a part-time gig as an independent contractor.
Betterton said it’s the customers she’ll miss the most, along with fellow carriers, some of whom she’s worked with for decades.
“I wish they all have a happy life, and I’m going to miss them,” she said. “I’ve had really nice people.”