Reporter’s Notebook: An eye-opening drive to Albuquerque
Every journalist should deliver their publication’s product at least once in their careers. Not to write about but to observe the readership.
On May 11, this reporter drove with bundles of the Navajo Times on a New Mexico route and delivered papers to stores and received payments.
From homeless people shooting heroin in a parking lot to eager customers lining up to get their copy of the newspaper, it was exciting to venture out of the office into the places where people buy the paper.
Delivering on the Laguna reservation was interesting as I’ve always been interested in pueblo culture. Their land is beautiful.
Arriving at the Villa de Cubero gas station, two elderly men sat at the counter. One sipped a Coke and the other a coffee. They talked about a Laguna pilot in the 1970s that would fly his plane all day and land it in one of the fields near the station. Kids would line up for rides when the pilot had free time, they said.
In Bernalillo, New Mexico, 14 miles north of Albuquerque, an excited patron was happy with my arrival and was amazed when I opened the car trunk to reveal a load of freshly printed copies of the Navajo Times.
“The Navajo Times!” said another patron, walking up to the Warrior Gas Station, who bought a copy of the Times and the Albuquerque Journal.
Navigating around Old Town was another adventure in itself. Central Avenue is under construction near Rio Grande and I waited almost an hour in traffic. Finding parking in Old Town was a hassle and the area was flooded with tourists.
Finding the David Behren Gallery was difficult as well and I had to go through many galleries until I found the right one. The lady at the cash register was shocked to find out it snowed in the Window Rock-Gallup area on Wednesday, May 10.
“Snow? Snow?” she said, and added she was enjoying the warm sunshine before the summer months bring hotter temperatures. She grabbed a copy of the Navajo Times and said she was interested in the Four Corners area.
At the American Indian Center in eastern Albuquerque, I was shocked to pull into the parking lot and find three homeless people tying their arms off and shooting heroin under a tree. Not wanting any trouble, I minded my own business.
The center was the subject of a story I wrote in February. The story was about how the center helps homeless Native Americans, feeding them and providing counseling for those struggling with addictions.
At the center, a man walked up who was excited to get the paper and whom the staff called Phillip.
“I come here just for this,” said Phillip, who paid a dollar and went to the dining hall to read.
The center was preparing for lunch and it was a joy to see the staff serving food to people in need. Homeless Native Americans showed up and waited for their lunch.
The Walgreens located on the west side on Central Avenue and Coors Boulevard also was interesting. I drove up and saw police activity. Two police officers had their lights on and restrained two people in the parking lot.
Apparently an attempted car jacking had occurred and one of the suspects was on the loose. The handcuffed men seemed to sweat bullets as the heat peaked in the 70s.
At the Indian Pueblo Culture Center, the receptionist at the front desk was excited to see me wearing a Ty Segall concert T-shirt. She asked if I went to his show on Monday, May 8.
Yes I did, I said, and she said she wanted to go but the show had sold out.
“That’s awesome,” she said as I came through the door with a stack of papers for the gift shop.
At the gift shop, a man wearing a name tag that said “Peter” was happy the paper had arrived and said he reads it every week. He said a story I wrote was about his nephew’s heavy metal band from Kayenta and said he appreciates what he reads.
“The paper is still important,” said Peter, holding the paper with both hands, jiggling it like a gift.
The paper route was an interesting experience, seeing where the paper goes and who purchases it and knowing the hard copy of the newspaper is still important to people in areas where they have no access to the Internet. It is a great feeling.
I think the biggest lesson I learned from this is to appreciate your audience and know your readership is there, waiting for the next story to make their day a little more informative and entertaining.