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Making the mail

Jan 10, 2014 By Steven R. Peck

A postal deadline change was a huge problem initially, but we have fixed it

Observant readers might have noticed that we are no longer including the daily message about what time The Ranger was delivered to the post office on the previous day.

For some months that notification was printed immediately below this editorial. That information has disappeared for a good reason. We are "making the mail" every day.

Late last summer we were, undeniably, having difficulty meeting a new deadline imposed upon us unexpectedly by the post office regarding delivery of The Ranger to mail subscribers.

What once had been a 5:30 p.m. deadline, then a 4:30 p.m. deadline, became a 3:30 p.m. deadline. It meant that if we did not deliver the hundreds of newspapers for our mail subscribers to the post office by 3:30 p.m., then they would not be processed that day. Readers may remember a couple of editorials at that time lamenting the deadline change and also pledging to try to solve the problem.

And it was a problem. Most in-county mail subscribers were accustomed to getting their Ranger with their mail delivery the following day. Now, with a new deadline, they often were receiving it at least two days later. In our world of instant information, the newspaper already faced a new challenge. Getting a daily newspaper two days after its publication date didn't really serve anyone's purpose very well.

We did find, as well, that sometimes even when we did make the mail deadline, some papers still were not being delivered on time. As we have tried to make clear to mail subscribers all along, once our bundles of newspapers are handed off to the post office, the subscribers are postal customers from that point forward, not strictly newspaper customers. So, we felt that it would be informative as well as protective for us to publish a daily reckoning of whether we had delivered our product to the post office on time to meet the new deadline.

We were honest about it, and in those early days of the notification there were many times when we gritted our teeth and typed the embarrassing words "The Ranger was not delivered to the post office in time to meet the daily deadline for mail delivery."

The point of the notification, whether we made the deadline or didn't, was to enlist a joint sense of responsibility for the delivery of our product by the post office. We always are willing to take our lumps when we deserve them, but not every late mail delivery was our doing.

It has taken some time, but we have figured out how to meet the deadline. The last time we did not "make the mail," was Oct. 3. An internal goal in the publisher's mind was to demonstrate that the new deadline could be met for an entire business quarter before discontinuing the daily notification. That objective now has been reached, and we are no longer going to notify readers when we make the deadline. The presumption from this point forward is that we will meet the deadline every day.

It is very important that we note the much-improved spirit of cooperation on the part of local postal leaders and mail carriers in this endeavor. The Ranger is one of the post office's biggest customers and has been for decades. A good relationship between the post office and the newspaper is important for each side, and we are happy to note that postal workers here have shown a bit of flexibility at crucial times which has enabled us to meet the mail deadline when the strictest interpretation of the deadline would have made that impossible. For that we are highly, and publicly, grateful.

An equal expression of gratitude goes to the often-unheralded staff of The Ranger mailroom. Those workers have gone to some lengths to streamline and hasten their work practices. There have been numerous times when, due to late-breaking news, to the dawdling of the newsroom, late advertisements, or unexpected technical problems in the press process, we felt there was no chance that the deadline could be met on a particular day. In those instances, the mailroom has risen to an extra-demanding request, and it has happened much more than once.

Months ago, when this problem first arose, we wrote words in this space to the effect of "this will be a difficult problem for us to solve, but if there is a way to solve it, then we will find it."

That was far from an earth-moving prophecy, but it has been fulfilled. We have found the way, we are meeting the deadline every day, and we pledge to continue to do so.

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