Print Industry Troubles, As Analyzed by Chronicle Street Vendors

Categories: Spaced City

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It ain't like it used to be.
The newspaper industry hasn't been in the best of shape for a while now, and layoffs and buyouts and declining subscriptions are common.

Besides the employees directly affected, hard times have also hit the people who will sell you the Houston Chronicle while you're waiting at intersections across the city.

What are their thoughts on the print industry and the business of selling newspapers? We asked. With fewer work days (they used to be on the corners seven days a week) and fewer customers, these men say that, without the TV listings and coupons to push papers, they wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

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Photos by Whitney Hodgin
Joe Perry, intersection of El Dorado Boulevard and Space Center Boulevard in Clear Lake
Q. How long have you been selling papers?
Fifteen years.

Q. How many papers do you sell a weekend?
We're not selling papers like we used to. I used to sell 140 a weekend, now I sell 80, if I'm lucky.

Q. Why do you think fewer people are buying papers?
Some people say they just don't like the paper. Others get their news online, and some people get home delivery.

Q. What do you do to boost sales?
I've got my regulars. I guess they like me. Most of my customers have known me for a long time.

Q. What else do you do to supplement your income?
I sell used cars and move furniture.




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Oren Jones, intersection of Highway 146 and 518 in Kemah
Q. How long have you been selling papers?
Seven years.

Q. How many papers do you sell a weekend?
75-90.

Q. Why do you think fewer people are buying papers?
They put a deal in the paper -- a card -- that gives them weekend delivery for a little bit of nothing. They're putting us out of business on the streets. But a lot of people told me they won't subscribe because I'm here. I'll be here even if it's pouring down rain.

Q. What do you do to boost sales?
These people like me. I have a scripture of the day [written on a sign and held up for passersby to see.] I'm like a preacher. I donate all the canned goods people give me to the church.
They've got money around here. I've gotten a $1,000 tip before -- 20 $50 bills from one person. People are very nice to me, maybe it's because I don't talk like a soul brother.

Q. What else do you do to supplement your income?
I work on a liquor truck during the week.

Q. Anything else?
I have to be very polite. And never flirt. The ladies can be sensitive.

I had a couple of Klansmen -- Thunder and Lightning -- bother me once. He revved his engine at me like he was about to run me over. I told him I'd pray for him.

The perception is that we're "papertramps." Homeless drug addicts, and this is their only job. Some are like that, but not all of us.

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