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Briefings continue to litter neighborhoods. But hey, try delivering them

Dead issues: Briefings are still decomposing in our neighborhood and many others as more layoffs loom at TDMN. Photos: Ed Bark

Another big round of layoffs is scheduled to hit The Dallas Morning News within the next month or so. Meanwhile, the newspaper's free mini-me, known as Briefing, continues to litter streets, gutters, sidewalks and parkways.

Something's not right with this picture -- as you can see from the snapshot above. But Robin E. Chapa, wife of a DMN carrier, says that complainers should know what it's like to be a cog in The Dallas Morning News delivery system.

"There are some facts that need to be stated," she said in an impassioned email sent to unclebarky.com.

First, though, a brief back story.

Briefing debuted in late August as a four-days-a-week product aimed at "upscale" households earning at least $75,000 annually.

"What we're giving advertisers are 200,000 more readers who have disposable income," DMN vice president of niche products Cyndy Carr was quoted as saying in the mothership's Aug. 26th edition.

As noted previously in these spaces and in a December article for D CEO magazine, many of the 12-to-16-page Briefings are landing everywhere except potential readers' doorsteps. And there they rot, blighting various neighborhoods rather than putting a hop in the step of "people on the go" who simply "are not able to fit the traditional newspaper into their busy lifestyle."

That brings us to Robin E. Chapa's side of the story. Her husband, a realtor, began working part-time as a carrier for The DMN to help make ends meet in a still shipwrecked economy. She has authorized the use of her name.

"He just received the extra job of delivering Briefing", Chapa said in a March 13th email. "I see a lot of complaints from neighborhoods, but I have not read anything from the carriers. The Dallas Morning News has 'dumped' this extra job on carriers and is paying them only $60 more a week.

"Carriers are expected to throw over 200-250 extra papers four days a week. That means rolling and bagging them also. That is another route. That is adding an extra two hours at least to their route. This is a part-time job and now they are working full-time hours for $15 extra for the days the Briefings are thrown.

"Carriers use their money for gas. Also, there are deadlines that all papers must be delivered by. Try throwing a Briefing during a high wind and watch where that Briefing goes. There is no weight to it, and Briefings blow everywhere.

"So before people complain about the circumstances, think of the carriers that have to roll each Briefing individually, throw them and still have all their paying subscribers receive their papers within the deadline."

Chapa notes that carriers work seven days a week with no vacation time, holidays or benefits. (This is very true. My son briefly worked as a DMN carrier during his college years before quickly tiring of the grind and the daily pre-dawn hours. I went out with him once. Don't know how he did it.)

"Even though this is a part-time job -- or used to be -- my husband puts 100 percent into it," Chapa says. "He does a great job."

Whatever her husband's dedication to duty, "people are not going to subscribe to The Dallas Morning News because of Briefing," Chapa contends. "They are either going to throw them away or glance at them and then throw them away."

Actually, that's assuming a lot. Judging from the evidence in our neighborhood and others, many Briefings are still never picked up at all. Instead they form an all-too-visible paper trail in times when more layoffs loom and boondoggles inevitably land straight at the feet of the peons.