This Small Alabama Newspaper’s Chair-And-Cigar-Box Honor System Has Been Operating for 100 Years
The Evergreen Courant’s old school distribution model is a tribute to simpler times.
The community newspaper in the small town of Evergreen, Alabama, hasn’t changed its business model in nearly a century. With a dedicated six-person staff and no online presence to speak of, The Evergreen Courant’s distribution model is a tribute to simpler times.
Locals who don’t subscribe to the newspaper simply have to swing by the Courant’s brick and mortar office on Rural Road. Outside the office, on a worn wooden chair that’s missing a slat or two, they can find the day’s paper sitting in a neat pile. Residents who take a paper need only deposit 50 cents in the small black cigar box at the top of the stack and be on their way. Nobody’s sure how long “the chair,” has been there, but most say since at least World War II, or even the 1920s.
This old-fashioned honor system recently caught the eye of the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), which wrote a feature story on the unique paper.
According to CJR, the cigar box usually collects between $20 and $25 on Wednesday, $10 to $15 on Thursday, and a few more dollars on Friday. Obviously, the Courant doesn’t solely rely on its chair-and-cigar-box setup. The paper’s loyal base of subscribers—which totals 3,600 at the moment—is responsible for keeping the beloved periodical afloat.
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Despite its lack of defenses, the cigar box has been stolen only three times. Robert Gaston Bozeman III, the third-generation owner and publisher of the Courant, told CJR that most of the time people don’t mess with it. “They know it’s a tradition,” he noted.
Ed Williams, a retired Auburn University journalism professor, could only marvel at the chair’s longevity.
“That chair ought to wind up in the Smithsonian or Newseum one day, it’s such an icon,” he said.