The “us” in USPS
Emily C. Skaftun
Norwegian American Weekly
Dear readers, I am curious: what day is it as you are reading this paper?
It’s Friday as I write these words, October 30. On Monday, November 2, the paper will be finalized and the digital file sent electronically to our printer in Minnesota. On Tuesday papers will be printed and the whole stack of newsprint and ink will be placed into the hands of our United States Postal Service.
The date on this paper is November 6, which for me is still a week away. How long ago is it for you?
In the last month, we at NAW have received a lot of complaints about missing papers. Specifically, the October 9 issue seemed to have gone astray, to the point that I called our printer/mailer to confirm that everything had gone as normal on their end. Of course, it had. No one had had a breakdown and thrown our papers wholesale into a lake, nothing had been delayed with the printing or shipping—if it had, they would have told us. Our printer is consistently excellent.
USPS is another matter entirely.
In our quest to discover why the October 9 papers were so late, we learned that USPS standards for periodicals delivery changed as of October 1. The image above shows those standards for our papers. It is, first of all, a very badly made map. The color key repeats, so I’m forced to assume/hope that the light-colored section surrounding the papers’ point of origin is three days and not 13. (The same color on Puerto Rico probably represents 13 days). Congratulations, portions of Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and the Dakotas, you are the only ones likely to get your papers by the issue date!
Secondly—and I find this very puzzling—no one gets their papers in four days. It jumps right to five for the bulk of the Midwest and eastern interior, which would be Sunday if mail was delivered on Sundays. Which brings me to:
Third, it’s unclear what “days” means. Does the six days we should expect here in Seattle translate to Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of the following week?
None of this excuses or explains why the October 9 issue was over a week late for many of you. Any way you slice it, delivery of that paper took at least nine days—and the color for nine days appears nowhere on the map.
Many of you have asked what we, the Norwegian American Weekly, can do about this. Unfortunately, the answer is, “Not a blessed thing.” For better or worse, we are stuck with the USPS. Other services deliver things much more quickly and reliably, but we would go bankrupt in weeks. Despite USPS being one of our larger budget items, it’s still relatively inexpensive. It’s slow, and every week a few of our (correctly addressed) papers go astray and are eventually returned to us (at our expense, for some reason), but I suppose—in my more charitable moments—that out of thousands of papers that is to be expected. No one is perfect, right?
What I can do—and have been doing—as editor is to move away from super-timely content, to celebrate holidays earlier than seems right, to start the events calendar further in the future.
What you can do as readers, if you cannot wait, is to read our stories online. Every print subscription also comes with access to our online version (www.norwegianamerican.com). If you haven’t used it before, all we need is your email address. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frustratingly, there have also been a number of recent complaints about digital access not working. However, I believe we have fixed it! We’ve changed the system so that it now requires you to create a username and password.
If you have not yet created a password, the first time you log in you’ll need to click the “lost password” link. Enter your email in the box and then follow the instructions in the email that you receive. You can enter any password you choose (you do not have to use the auto-filled “strong” password). Then log in using your username (provided in the email) and new password. You’ll be taken to a WordPress profile page, but you do not need to fill this out. To return to NAW, click the house icon at the upper left of your screen.
If you have any questions about the process, write us at email@example.com.
Web content goes up throughout the week before the paper’s issue date, with the most timely stories typically posted on Monday or Tuesday. That’s right: you can get some of our content before the physical papers are even printed. As a trade-off, not all of the paper’s content makes it to the web. Nyheter fra Norge; some news, business, and sports briefs; stock market winners and losers; Tippeligaen scores; comics; letters; notes; crosswords; obituaries; birthdays; Photos of the Week; and bilingual fables are all exclusive to the print version!
We think the combination of these approaches is pretty satisfying: digital for speedy news, paper for all the little timeless extras.
So, what day is it as you read these words? Have they barely left my fingertips, or have they been on a great journey? Either way, enough of them! Please enjoy the paper’s real content, however you receive it.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 6, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.