As the landscape of the newspaper business continues to change in today’s world of social media and readers’ online consumption of news, the sight of newspaper hawks at the corner of intersections in small towns across America is a growing rarity. Last week, we here in Fayetteville and Lincoln County lost one of those gems with the passing of Iris Wayne Brown.
Mrs. Brown had served as a street hawk for The Times for 33 years – from 1979 until 2012, just five years ago when she retired at the age of 82 when her health prevented her from continuing.
Hailed as Mrs. Iris by some and Mrs. Wayne by others, Mrs. Brown also regaled the pages of the newspaper she so faithfully sold many times over the years. Among the first of those was in 1987 when we covered the story of her being featured by then “Country Rover” Jamie Cooper of Channel 31 out of Huntsville, Ala. Cooper said at the time he hit upon the story idea when he drove through Fayetteville during a storm one day and saw one of our salespersons selling papers in the rain.
“The man who was with me said, ‘That is true America’,” Cooper said. “You don’t see that much anymore.”
While street sellers here have offered our newspapers hot off the presses for as long as we can remember, the business has certainly changed. Yes, we still have a couple of salespersons who “hawk” the paper to hundreds of passersby at the intersection of Elk Avenue and Washington, but today, we also deliver the news of the day, along with advertising of local sales and services, via our electronic edition (an expanded version of our print edition), on our website and on our social media pages, as well as in our print edition … The landscape is changing, and we are changing with it, as are most newspapers in America today.
Even as us EVT “old timers” change with the times, we can’t help but recall the days of Mrs. Brown’s extraordinary salesmanship with a prideful voice, for she was one of a kind.
Always smiling, she’d wave the papers high in the air as vehicles approached, no matter whether it was raining, freezing cold, snowing or in the scorching heat … She was always there. And with just about every sale, she’d respond with, “Thank you, honey!”
We estimate that over her 33 years of selling The Times, she sold approximately 1.2 million copies … that would mean that out of over 14.7 million copies of the EVT sold during that same period, she was responsible for over eight percent of sales – that’s pretty extraordinary stuff.
Mrs. Brown, if there are newspapers in heaven as some of us here might hope, we feel confident your loyal customers are still lining up to get the latest news from their loyal friend. More importantly, we know you are reunited with your dear Pete and maybe even caring for a few critters on the farm. We’ll miss you for all of our days to come, but we’ll treasure those memories we have of you. You left with us a legacy of dedication, loyalty and service, and we’ll always appreciate that.
We also applaud our current street hawks as well as all our other distributors and extend to you our great thanks for all the work you do, week in and week out.
As much as anything, we appreciate our readers, and we’re thankful that most people still turn to their local newspaper, whether it’s online or in print, for their news. To this end, we’ll take a page from Mrs. Brown’s songbook as we work to deliver the “straight of it” to our community.