As I’ve alluded to in this space before, we’ve been making some changes at Triad City Beat — the good kind — in preparation for our 5th anniversary at the end of February, and the party to follow in March.

We’re printing on a better grade of newsprint so the photos pop; we started making separate editions for Greensboro and Winston-Salem a few months back. We’ve moved around some personnel, too, particularly in the distribution department, which is something we just created. After five years, Jordan Green and my father are no longer delivering papers, ceding the responsibility to our new distribution manager and his team.

But I’m keeping my route.

I haven’t missed a week since we started in February 2014 — a route that once stretched from the northernmost reaches of Battleground Avenue, through downtown and the universities then into the northeast corner of town. It used to take me all day.

Now, my whittled-down route centers on downtown Greensboro, where you can find me every Thursday morning just after sunrise, hustling through traffic with armloads of City Beat and plastic, yellow strips dangling from my pockets. It only takes me two or three hours these days, and it’s become my favorite part of the week.

I’ve had business coaches tell me that this is not the best use of my time. Some days, they’re right. But I pick up a lot of intel on the streets of downtown Greensboro every week, not just how many papers we’re moving and where.

I drive around in circles while the city sleeps, giving the two-finger wave to cops, baristas, municipal workers, homeless folks and fellow delivery drivers, Greensboro’s nervous system, the actual grapevine.

More than that, putting the newspaper on the street is the whole point of the thing.

Distribution is the most essential of the three legs that hold the newspaper aloft — the other two being advertising/revenue, also essential, and content, which, ultimately, is not. There are a few free papers on the street with no content at all. But no matter how good the content is, nobody can pick up the paper if it doesn’t make it to the street.

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