Yes Weekly prints at the Fayetteville Observer and is dropped off by a hulking white truck every Wednesday morning. Usually, if the driver isn’t running late, he arrives at the Jamestown News office shortly before 7 a.m. with the delivery, leaving soon after unloading five pallets of Yes Weekly. That is, at least, according to the four different weeks in August, September and October when I waited in my car, parked in an adjacent parking lot, to observe.
Womack owns and runs Womack Newspapers Inc., which also owns the Jamestown News, the Adams Farm Gazette and recently acquired Creative Loafing Charlotte. According to an employee list printed inside of Yes Weekly, the paper’s distribution department consists of just two employees, Janice Gantt and Brandon Combs. I figured with even a small window of time before either of them arrived, I could see the invoice on top of the newspaper delivery.
On Aug. 26, I made my first attempt.
I arrived before I expected the delivery truck from Fayetteville to be there, pulling into the adjacent Wells Fargo parking lot and backing into a spot where I could see the area behind the Jamestown News in my rearview mirror. Slumping down, I could still film the entire thing on my phone.
At 7:12 a.m., the truck pulled away, and once it was out of sight I hustled over to the five Yes Weekly pallets, left near a few unused newspaper boxes in the back parking lot. Each had a piece of paper on top listing exactly how many newspapers it contained, broken out by number per bundle, bundles per row, total number of rows, bundles on partial rows and any odd papers. And on the front of one of the pallets, I found an invoice.
The invoice is incredibly thorough, even listing the weight of the delivery and the driver’s name. It cites the customer as Yes Weekly and includes Gantt as a contact person. It includes the previous day’s date — likely when the order was placed — and states that it is “Truck 1 of 1.” Most importantly, there’s a total figure entered for the quantity of papers: 17,700.
I examined the other pallets in the order quickly, noting that each one was numbered, such as “Skid number 2 of 5,” and featured the date as well as Yes Weekly’s name. And then, before Gantt or Combs might see me, I left hurriedly.
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I returned about a month later, on Sept. 23. I showed up with one of our freelance writers, Anthony Harrison, and we took his car to avoid being noticed. I filmed the delivery truck as it left at 7:02 a.m., and kept rolling as I approached and examined the stacks of newspapers.
Again: 17,700 copies on the invoice.
I took photos of the sheets on top of each pallet, or skid, that spelled out in detail how many papers each held. Later I added them up, and hit a clean 17,700.
I came back on Oct. 14, and nothing had changed save for the delivery driver running later and leaving at 7:26 a.m. Again, the invoice listed the quantity as 17,700 and matched the other previous data. I figured I’d come back two weeks later, on Oct. 28, to have evenly spaced data samples, but with three matching invoices falling in three different months I had what I initially set out to document.
But before I walked away, Gantt pulled up right next to me in the lot.
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After reminding Gantt who I was, I asked if this was the entire delivery.
“No, there’s more coming,” she said.
Surprised, I asked if she meant for Yes Weekly, and she said yes.
Why then, I asked, did the invoice say “Truck 1 of 1,” pointing to the spot on the invoice she had picked up.
Gantt said somebody else was doing it and asked why I wanted to know, so I explained I was curious about the discrepancy between the 17,700 figure on the invoice and the 43,000 copies Yes Weekly claimed on its website.
Gantt again claimed another truck was coming, adding that it would also bring the papers to the Jamestown News.
Incredulous, I walked back to my car, and then waited.
That didn’t make any sense, so after enlisting the help of several other Triad City Beat staffers, the stakeout began. We periodically checked the parking lot outside Yes Weekly’s office, at one point having someone sit on it for several hours, and even swung by Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem, a business owned by Womack, to look for any evidence of a delivery at a different location.
The stakeout ended after sunset, around 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 14. No second delivery ever materialized during our stakeout. The next day, an employee in the Fayetteville Observer shipping department said only one truck had been scheduled for delivery to Yes Weekly the day before, and nothing was lined up for Oct. 15. Later, Gantt did not return a voicemail requesting an interview and Womack did not respond to an email requesting additional contact information.
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