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Beckett Landon got off his bicycle laden with newspapers, left it on the sidewalk as he walked across the yard, a bit closer to the front porch. He leaned forward and tossed the day’s edition near the front door.

The 17-year-old, home-schooled teenager has been delivering 76 newspapers a day on his route for the past seven years. Before that, his brother Trip had the route for around the same length of time.

Delivering the Ellensburg Daily Record is a Landon family tradition. Their mother Laura was pregnant with Trip when she started her rural route in Upper County from June 1998 to December 2006. Her husband, Johnny, took over the route for 10 months before being deployed to Iraq in 2007.

Seeing that people get their newspaper has run in the Landon family for the past 23 1/2 years. But that will end on Dec. 1 when the Daily Record changes with the times, converting to an all-mail delivery system. Subscribers will receive the printed edition of the newspaper with their mail each publication day.

The holiday season and new year, marks the end of an era.

Newspaper carriers will no longer make their way through the neighborhoods to make sure readers get the latest local news.

“Me and my brother have had this route for 13 years. I started when I was 10 and had it for the past seven years,” Beckett said. “Mom would drive me for one or two months in the beginning. Then I would walk the route and she would drive along behind to make sure I was OK.

“It gave me responsibility and a little bit of money. I might not miss getting up at 5:30 on Saturday morning, but I’m going to miss it.”

Where nowadays, children can play video games on their cell phone or stay connected through the internet, it was different in 1998. The Landon paper route consisted of traveling 180 miles of Upper Country roads, six days a week. Laura would eventually take the boys with her as she delivered the newspapers.

“In the beginning, it was a way to make a little money and still be home with my child (Trip),” Laura explained. “I used to take him with me on the route. He would ride in the car with me and we would listen to music and sing songs.

“We would memorize important dates in history, the capitals in the different states and even Bible verses. It was a special time.”

LESSONS LEARNED

Laura (1998-2006) and Johnny (2007) started the route while they were both in college. Trip (2008-2014) eventually became old enough to take over when he was 8 1/2 and kept the Ellensburg delivery going until he was 16. Beckett (2015-2021) kept the family tradition going to the end of the process.

“Doing the deliveries has been so good for the boys, teaching them time management and customer service. If there was something wrong, they had to go to their customer and ask, ‘How can I fix this?’ It helped them become more outspoken, more outgoing. It was just an amazing opportunity.”

The Hudson family tradition is also tied to the delivery service, handing down their route from child to child. David (2011) started doing the route when he was 11 years old. He handed off to Peter (2016) when Peter was 12. Katherine (2018) took over when she was 15 to earn money to take driver’s education classes. It eventually came full circle to Peter again.

“They went out on their bikes, rain or shine or wind, like there’s no wind in Ellensburg,” Jessica Hudson said with a laugh. “By doing this, they learned how to work hard whether they felt like or not.

“Every Saturday they were up at 5:30 in the morning. So, they had to discipline themselves to go to bed early on Friday nights when all the activities were happening. They learned to sacrifice and work hard.”

Jessica said the most important lesson in all of this was the connection they made in the community. Getting out and meeting the people along the route were memories that will last a lifetime, she said.

“In this swipe or touch screen world, the paper carriers helped keep that human connection,” she said. “People need the human connection, especially during the pandemic where they might not get out as much as they used to.

“We’ve lived in Ellensburg 20 years, and it’s still a place where you can turn a 12-year-old boy loose to go out and deliver papers. It’s just so sad that’s not going to happen anymore. We’re going to miss it.”

The newspaper industry is globally moving from traditional print technology to digital technology as everyone seems to prefer digital and mobile platforms, according to Mordor Intelligence.

Print media continues to be an attractive platform for image advertisers and premium segment readers in the global market. Diversifying revenue streams have become a big priority for publishers all over the world as traditional business models face pressure to generate revenue.

According to official sources, the report said, the daily paid circulation of newspapers was 60 million in 2000, and in 2016, that number had plummeted to 33.5 million, which further went down to 28.6 million in 2018. Many newspapers are currently going online because of internet reading subscribers rising globally.

Where the Ellensburg Daily Record will continue to provide both digital and printed editions, Dec. 1 marks the end of an era and the newspaper carriers will take their place in history as a thing of the past.

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at rharwood@kvnews.com