Almost every aspect of producing a newspaper has changed since September 6, 1995 — the publication date of the inaugural Seven Days.
With a laptop and a smartphone, journalists can report stories from anywhere. Editing, designing and sending the paper to the printer requires software that didn't exist in the '90s. Also nonexistent back then: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Trello, Slack and Airtable, which all enable our staff to collaborate remotely during the pandemic.
There's just one department that still operates as it did 25 years ago: circulation. Every Wednesday morning, a truck loaded with freshly printed papers — that has traveled through the wee hours — pulls up to the loading dock behind our building. A team of drivers meets it; loads up their cars, trucks and vans with bundles of papers; then departs to deliver Seven Days to far-flung corners of Vermont.
Sure, they're wearing masks and gloves and packing locally made hand sanitizer these days, but the job itself hasn't changed much.
People's habits have, though. The COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered many of our pickup spots, and trips to the grocery store are more stressful. Some people shop only once every few weeks and might miss an issue or two. The entire paper — ads and all — is available in digital form, but many readers find having a print copy reassuring during this historic time.
So last week, after our usual Wednesday deliveries, we tried something new — er, old. On Saturday, circulation deputy Jeff Baron borrowed a bike and a trailer from Burlington's Old Spokes Home, loaded it up with stacks of Seven Days and hit the streets of the Queen City.
Art director Diane Sullivan rode behind him on a BMX bike with a Bluetooth speaker blasting the Clash's "London Calling." Bringing the papers to the people!
Starting this week, Seven Days staffers will visit neighborhoods in Burlington and Winooski — à la the August First bread bike — on some Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, weather permitting. Look for the "route of the day" on the Seven Days Facebook page and Instagram Live.
We've also added some new neighborhood drop spots. A number of employees — and some former ones — have put Seven Days racks in their front yards.
Some readers have even volunteered to take actual paper routes, showing off their folding and tossing techniques. We're looking into that, too.
Whatever it takes.