How green is that morning Herald?

A blinking voicemail light on Monday morning is pretty common: Someone’s called to comment on this or that story, or a call’s been misdirected and a customer wants to have paper delivery held while she’s on vacation.

On a recent Monday morning, though, the red light was a precursor to a voice with a message every newspaper employee has come to fear.

A man had called in to offer a response to the GreenTip feature that now runs each Monday in the Mid-Columbia section of the paper.

Why don’t you stop printing the Herald? Then you’ll save paper and fuel.

My heart sagged for a moment at the suggestion.

It’s true, each day our operation uses eight 48-inch rolls of paper -- each of which weighs 1,700 pounds — to print the Tri-City Herald, and nearly 400 carriers deliver those papers, many using cars that emit pollution.

But as my colleague Kai noted in his blog last week , living entirely green is virtually impossible.

And the paper does provide multiple benefits for the Tri-Cities community.

I decided to talk to my boss, executive editor Ken Robertson, about his thoughts on our GreenTip reader’s comment.

For one, he said, the Herald provides about 200 jobs for the community and is an economic driver of business. Many companies rely on the advertising power of the paper to sell cars, haircuts, real estate services and much more.

And many people still prefer to read their news on paper, he said. Between 80,000 and 90,000 people read a hard copy of the Herald each day, which is a larger audience than television, radio and online get combined.

Then there’s the access issue. “There are a lot of households that don’t have computers,” Robertson said.

Plus, as has been noted in this blog before, we do recycle much of our printing material and we use recycled newsprint and soy ink.

I would add that reading the paper in its traditional form exposes people to a variety of information and ideas. Skimming through the “old-fashioned” paper presents readers with many different headlines and news items, even if they don’t read the articles in full. Online, information consumers can tailor what they read to their own perspectives and interests.

So how do these benefits stack up against the resources we use to produce the paper? That’s a question I can’t really answer. And maybe (gasp!), we will move to an online model someday, but for now that doesn’t take care of the bottom line.

And there are still tens of thousands of readers out there who prefer the paper Herald over a computer screen (or maybe along with).

By the way, I did try to return the call to chat about the no-newspaper suggestion, but my call and voicemail went unreturned.

— Ingrid Stegemoeller is a business reporter for the Herald and appreciates the economic and environmental efficiency of living green.