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Bundles of unmailed copies of the Randolph Hub are ready for pickup at the Winston-Salem Journal's print facility.    Ray Criscoe/Randolph Hub

Getting the paper from us to you

Early on in this great experiment called Randolph Hub — heading toward the beginning of its third year in September — I wrote about the mailing process to help explain what to expect. While generally mailing papers to people’s homes or PO boxes has worked well, there have been fluctuations along the way. And when they occur, I often get asked what happened or if we were late.


So for the many new subscribers we’ve picked up since then, and for clarification to everyone, I want to briefly visit this topic again ... and this time I brought pictures!


Every week, here’s what happens: We spend the week gathering information and designing pages. They are finished by early evening on Monday — no later than midnight. Each page is converted into a PDF and uploaded to the Winston-Salem Journal, and early on Tuesday morning, the paper is printed. Subscriber issues have addresses inkjetted into the otherwise blank box at the bottom left corner on the front page. Papers are bundled together for various postal zones and then delivered directly to the Greensboro post office, the hub for postal services in our area. After processing there, they move on toward their destinations, mostly in Randolph County.


I have never missed a deadline, and the Journal has never missed its print deadline. Doesn’t mean those won’t ever happen, but they haven’t yet.


I or someone drives to Winston-Salem on Tuesdays to pick up several leftover bundles of 50 papers each, all unaddressed (just a blank box on the front page) to bring back to Randolph County and distribute into stands for sale at five Ready Marts and a couple of other places. Another bundle of 50 goes to the Tourism Development Authority for distribution in the visitors centers in Seagrove, and now another 250-300 are donated each week to the Senior Center in Randolph County for distribution to Meals on Wheels recipients.


That part of the process never fluctuates or changes — unless a holiday like the Fourth of July falls on a Tuesday. The Journal employees had the day off, so last week’s paper was a day later than normal.


Local post offices deliver papers as they receive them. Sometimes some post offices get them before others. Sometimes issues like elections can get in the way — after all, the time it takes to distribute those millions of political mailers we all throw in the garbage without reading has to take time from something else.


So this process works when all aspects of it works. But whenever a problem arises in Greensboro that delays its distribution of bundles to Randolph County — and it is a busy hub, so things will happen — we all suffer. I say “all” because it’s equally frustrating for us when someone doesn’t get to see our hard work in a timely manner.


This column is not about assessing blame; I’ve made my share of errors inputting addresses that cause their own problems we later try to make right. 


But armed with information about how the process works, you can see we’re doing what we can to have us all be satisfied in the end. That’s the dream, anyway.


If you can believe it, Sept. 15 will be our official third birthday.


So far, it’s been a fast, but long, a tiring, but invigorating journey these first nearly two years, trying to fill a local news void in a viable fashion ... but as a weekly rather than a daily newspaper.


We’ve made some big strides each year, the first year just finding some footing and surviving. 


The second year we kept improving and adding to our product while continuing our laser focus on local news and information.


We picked up Dennis Garcia as a contributor to pair with Michael Duprez and give us a strong sports section with lots of interesting and timely reads every week, plus standings and schedules for more than just the major sports. And it’s all local.


Of course, part-timer Larry Penkava is still carrying the news side load, no easy task. This issue showcases Larry’s wonderful talents once again: Stories ranging from serious to touching to man-on-the-street interesting. What he does is the heart of who we are right now. 


But he’s got some help now with the addition of stringer Janet Imrick. A former TV news producer, she has a full-time job elsewhere but still wants to do something for her community here, so she helps Larry cover city and county government and throws in other stories as her busy schedule allows. And this summer, two college students — Emi Maerz and Wesley Britt — are helping as they can.


Eric Abernethy’s photos are awesome and we use as many as I can fit in. He had more than 30 in one issue this year. JD Walker still finds time to contribute and she and Sue Baltes provide interesting and useful gardening stories here and there. Sandy Hatley keeps us informed about local musical events that we might not otherwise know about. Starr Ayers’ monthly devotions, Rusty Hammond’s movie columns and our mystery Randolph Rewind writer (who wishes to remain anonymous) give us some unique flavor.


Dennis, Larry, Eric, JD, Sue, Sandy, Mike and Starr have worked or written for or with me before during my decades with The Courier-Tribune.


So has Neill Caldwell, who now manages our website and Facebook postings and who I suspect will help me in bigger ways in the future.


And, too, another good friend and former co-worker, Justin Little, a recent addition to our squad who’s bringing his extensive experience as a daily newspaper advertising manager into play for the Hub. He’s got some big ideas that will hopefully help us be even more useful in the community.


His addition has helped Beth Farrell, another former co-worker, morph from my sole advertising sales rep into a Community Relations role. She is who you will call first now for issues about late or missing papers. But be patient; she also has a full-time job elsewhere.


In fact, nearly everyone involved has either another job or is retired and taking Social Security in addition to working. All are part-timers or stringers. That’s what makes Randolph Hub so special: What we are producing together is a product of love. No one’s in it for the money. All the more amazing for the amount of local information they help produce each issue.


 However, it still takes money to make this work and we’re not on truly solid footing yet, not in this time of ever-increasing costs. So, as much as I hate to do it, I’m going to raise the annual subscription rate again this year. It will rise from $50 to $55.


However, I am putting that change off until Sept. 15. In a nod of appreciation to all of our loyal fans out there, that gives you two months to self-renew at the current rate. Whether you just started last week or you know your subscription is up in September, October, November or any time, you can go ahead and sign up for the current $50. You can save that $5 and save me time and money to send your renewal card (I personally create and stamp renewal postcards every month), a win-win for us all. After Sept. 15, all renewals and new subscription rates will be $55, and postcards will go out.


I called Randolph Hub a grand experiment at the beginning and it remains so. Thank you for sticking with us as long as you have, for giving this experiment a chance to flourish. Hopefully you’ll stay with us for another round to see what next year brings.


Thanks for reading!