BUZZ at the door: One person’s junk is most people’s community newspaper

by Charles Akben-Marchand

It took me many years to get over my fear of delivering The BUZZ to mailboxes that have “no junk mail” signs on them.

Such signs vary widely, from formal City of Ottawa bylaw signs to “NO JUNK” lettering scrawled in chalk on the bricks above a mailbox. Homemade signs vary in wording, too, which can make it difficult to determine how to proceed.

Depending on your interpretation, a community paper like The BUZZ can be included in one person’s definition of “junk mail” but excluded in another’s. For example, a “Save the trees, no flyers please” sign is clearly environmentally motivated, but the person may want to stay connected to their community via the paper. Other signs might be posted by people who see anything that comes into their mailbox as just more paper they have to deal with, regardless of its origin.

I happen to fall into both of these camps, so when I started delivering The BUZZ, I wasn’t sure how to handle mailboxes with these signs.

I generally avoided these mailboxes and, when I ran into the resident, I’d ask if they wanted to receive The BUZZ. It never occurred to me that every person I asked said they wanted to receive The BUZZ.

It was only when I started delivering with other, more experienced carriers on the fill-in routes (see last month’s column) that I learned that our policy is to deliver to all addresses unless there is a sign that specifically says “NO NEWSPAPERS.”

Luckily for The BUZZ carriers, the City’s Voluntary Ad Mail Reduction Program Bylaw (2003-493) makes a clear distinction that these signs don’t apply to government circulars, election campaign materials, or community newspapers.

This felt strange at first, and as I approached mailboxes with a “no junk” sticker, I’d worry that someone would come out the front door chasing me away with a broom. Once, a man scowled from his porch as I walked up his walkway. But when he saw that I was delivering The BUZZ, his scowl turned into a smile and he reached out to gladly receive his community paper.

So I really had nothing to fear after all!

This is the first part of a two-part column. “BUZZ at the Door” is a monthly column by Charles Akben-Marchand about being a volunteer delivering The Centretown BUZZ. To volunteer as a carrier for The BUZZ, please call 613-565-6012 or email editor@centretownbuzz.com.