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posted: 10/9/2013 6:35 AM

Newspaper carriers face challenges every day

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Editor's note: This article is part of a special series celebrating National Newspaper Week Oct. 6-12. The Week was designated in 1940 as a way to recognize the importance of newspapers to their communities.

Reporters, photographers and editors work all day and into the wee hours to produce the print edition of the Daily Herald.

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But after the final press deadline, the editorial staff hands off the baton to the production and circulation departments to make sure the paper is printed and delivered in what is a daily marathon to get the paper on the streets before the sun rises on a new day.

The last line of defense is the newspaper carrier. Theirs is not a glamorous job -- hours are generally 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. -- and for many it is a side gig in addition to full-time day work. It means traversing suburban streets in the worst kinds of weather.

Here is what three carriers feel are the biggest challenges they face:

On-time deliveries

Tanshia Curtis, a 23-year-old student in Hoffman Estates, starts her day bagging papers at an office in Palatine before heading out in her Jeep to deliver between 320 and 390 a day.

But sometimes, the delivery truck from the Daily Herald's Schaumburg printing facility doesn't arrive on time. The later it is, the more of a time crunch for Curtis and her co-workers, who are expected to make their deliveries by 6 a.m.

"Customers that you deliver to want their paper exactly at 6 o'clock," said Curtis, who uses money she earns as a carrier to buy supplies for her art classes at the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg. "We've had snow and blizzards and rain -- but with those things occurring, they still want their papers at 6."

She remembers her grandfather subscribing to three papers a day -- the Daily Herald, Tribune and Sun-Times -- and he too, would get upset if his papers weren't on time.

"I didn't know until years later that (carriers) had to go through all that," she said. "They're busting their butts."

Stuck in a ditch

Gary Wurzinger's daily route often has him taking the roads less traveled throughout Winfield, Carol Stream and nearby unincorporated areas -- which can be dicey in the middle of a blizzard.

"That early in the morning, I'm usually the first traffic, when nothing has been plowed," said Wurzinger, 50, a Glendale Heights resident who has been a Daily Herald carrier for six years.

One day, he was traveling an unplowed street in Winfield when he lost control of his car and ended up in a ditch. "I couldn't stop. I kept going and slid into the ditch and hit someone's driveway," he said.

The biggest challenge of the job, he says, is keeping his car in good repair.

"The brakes go out real quick. The tires -- you put a lot of mileage on. It's my third car in however many years."

Daily grind

Naperville resident Tom Brown decided to take a job as a carrier seven years ago after retiring as a production superintendent at Mobil's refinery in Joliet. In his 35 years at Mobil he worked every shift, so overnights aren't new. But delivering newspapers seven days a week is.

Brown, 72, who delivers papers on the south side of Naperville, says he hasn't missed a day in seven years -- and he hasn't asked for any time off.

"I can do that if I wanted to," Brown said. "I know I could if I want to get somebody to replace me. The supervisors are pretty good."

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