Then a 14-year-old, Taylor was a member of the original team of 10 carriers when home delivery went from partial coverage to full coverage Jan. 4, 2006.
He’s been on the job ever since—and is the only member of the original team who’s still delivering today.
“It’s been fun,” he said.
The Free Press began door-to-door delivery for two reasons.
One was to improve service to local readers by delivering the paper one day earlier than they would receive it by U.S. mail.
The second reason was to reduce operating expenses. Because the Free Press does not charge for a subscription, it cannot be mailed under the same postal permit that subscriber newspapers use, and therefore pays about three times as much for each paper mailed.
The first papers arrived on about 415 local doorsteps Oct. 19, 2005, when the Free Press assumed responsibility for the smaller of the two local walking routes covered by the local post office.
To cover both post office routes—about 1,050 residences—Free Press staff developed 10 routes of around 100 residences each. A route of that many homes takes about an hour to walk.
Taylor was among those who responded to the ad in the Free Press inviting applicants for those routes.
“I needed the money,” he said. “That’s what I wanted—and just a place where I could be outside.”
Carriers were paid 5 cents per paper in the early days, but that was raised to 8 cents last year. One route pays 10 cents per paper because it requires more walking time than the others.
To become a door-to-door carrier, candidates read and sign a set of guidelines for how the papers are to be delivered. They and a parent or guardian also sign a document that identifies them as an independent contractor.
The newspapers they need for their respective routes are delivered in bundles each Tuesday to the doorstep of their home, or another agreed upon location. Depending on production factors, the papers generally arrive between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Carriers put each paper in a plastic sack and are encouraged to deliver them on the door latch or front porch by 6:30 p.m. or before darkness falls.
“I watch a little TV, then at 4:30 I unpack all the papers, stuff them and walk around and deliver,” Taylor said about his weekly routine.
Learning a route takes a week or two, but Taylor, whose route is in his own neighborhood, said it soon becomes familiar territory.
“I pretty much know everybody on my route now,” he said. “They’re always out.”
A lot of the people on his route have come to know him, too.
“Sometimes they’ll stop me and tell me a story for five or 10 minutes,” Taylor said.
And he doesn’t mind.
On the rare occasion that he misses a house on his route, a few know him well enough to call him at home.
And he doesn’t mind that either.
Providing an outdoor service year around has its challenges. The weather doesn’t always cooperate, particularly during winter.
“Last year I was really lucky to have a lot of good Tuesdays,” he said. “It was pretty nice. But when it’s cold, or when it’s rainy, I sometimes have my dad drive me around. It gets done pretty quick that way. Actually, I kind of like that.”
Indeed, for many of the Free Press carriers, maintaining a route becomes a family affair. Of the current roster of carriers, three routes are shared by two siblings.
Besides occasional transportation assistance from his father, Taylor said his younger sister and brother, Peyton and Preston, have stepped in when he’s been unable to do his route.
Carriers are responsible to find their own substitutes.
“They’ve done a lot for me whenever I can’t make it—school, basketball or sports,” Taylor said of his siblings. “Sometimes I’ll come in while they’re doing it and take over. But they’ve done it a lot.
“I do pay them a little,” he added with a smile.
One of the biggest challenges Taylor said he faces in his job is to know for sure when houses are occupied.
“Sometimes you deliver a paper there one week and you come back and it’s there still,” he said. “You’re supposed to pick it up and not deliver there anymore, but you know someone’s still living there. Their car is there, they’re walking around.
“Sometimes I give them another paper anyway and come back the next week and they’re both gone.”
All in all, Taylor said his experience as a Free Press carrier has been a good one.
“There aren’t many hard parts about it,” he said. “It’s just one day a week.”
Taylor said he isn’t sure how long he’ll continue.
“I was planning on getting something different when I turn 16,” he said, adding that the milestone is only a couple of months away.
But he’d recommend the job to anyone who is interested in earning a little extra money and doesn’t mind a little exercise.
“It’s pretty small,” he said of the time obligation, “since it’s just one day a week.”
Most Free Press carriers are in their early to mid teens, but some have been adults, including one in her 80s. Currently, three routes are managed by adults.
The other members of the current team of are Maia and Sydney Magathan, Harrison Wulf, Jon and Ty Carey, Austin and Abigail Calam, Skye Young, Crystal Squires, Olivia Kliewer, Kathryn Ens and Abby Shope.
Anyone interested in becoming a carrier can call the Free Press at 947-5702.
Their name will be put on a waiting list until a route becomes available.