Jerry Carter has walked a path paved in newspaper ink.
In August 2019, the Islands’ Sounder struck gold when it hired Carter, a lifelong newspaper delivery person, as its circulation driver.
At 14 years old, when Carter began operating a bicycle route in Tidewater, Virginia, he did not know it would be the beginning of six decades in the newspaper industry.
“Before I turned 15 I had six separate routes in my name and had put all of my friends to work in the operation,” Carter said. “I fell in love with the business as a 14-year-old and have the same affection for it at 57.”
In his early 20s, Carter became division manager for the Greensboro News and Record, where he was responsible for the circulation in four counties in North Carolina.
Carter spent a decade working for the Publishers Circulation Fulfillment, Inc. in their efforts for the New York Times in the Pacific Northwest including Seattle, Everett, Bellevue and Portland. Twice he received the President’s Award. Carter later launched his own company, Crystal Clear Delivery, serving the greater Seattle area. He and his family fell in love with Orcas after a visit to the San Juans.
“At the time, I could barely afford ferry boat fees and was losing the battle with my health, particularly weight,” Carter remembers. “I coined the phrase ‘Orcas 199’ as my dream for my life. There were two parts to it: accomplish enough to become a property owner on Orcas and the see the scales dip below 200 pounds again.”
Carter and his wife Linda then returned to the East Coast, where he led the Washington Post in its effort to downsize its operations in the Shenandoah Valley.
“There were 17 distributors when I started but just one when I completed my work. It was the best 10 years of my life, as it led me to Orcas at the end of my stay there. Jeff Bezos purchased the Post near the end of my run,” he said. “The 3-D feel to the business at the level I operated at with my time with the New York Times in Seattle and Portland was unbelievable, but my decade with the Washington Post took my life to a place where I truly lived my dream.”
In 2014, Carter realized his “Orcas 199” aspiration: buying property on Orcas and losing weight. He and Linda have a total of five children who range in age from 30 to 40. They are expecting their seventh grandchild next month. The Carters’ youngest child Rebecca lives on Orcas and helps run their business Cottages at Orcas Landing and teaches math at the Orcas Christian School.
“Looking back at all of the great moments and achievements in my life, I cannot remember a single one that my Kiddo (Rebecca) wasn’t standing there next to me. I play Robin to her Batman here on Orcas at our business,” Carter said.
In addition to delivering the Sounder and Journal across the island, he also handles the Seattle Times and New York Times distribution.
“I think everyone that lives on this beautiful island should ask themselves this: how can I give back to the community?” he said. “It seemed like a natural way to give back to the community by trying to provide flawless service for all of the printed products.”
During his career in circulation, Carter also covered sports as a writer and editor for newspapers in Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia and Indiana.
“I can add Washington state to that list if you count the tennis team article that appeared in the Islands’ Sounder,” laughed Carter.
He also owned a summer league baseball team, wrote two books with his daughters, co-hosted a podcast, wrote a sports blog and announced games. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, every day Carter wears one of the 32 National Hockey League team sweaters to cheer up people he encounters on his routes. Each jersey was purchased in their city of origin by Carter himself. In line with his desire to make the world a better place, he is currently writing a self-help book entitled “Fighting the Good Fight.”
Known in his family as the “Michael Jordan of circulation,” Carter says the key to his success is caring deeply for what he does.
“I will never ask you to work as hard as me, I just need you to care as much as me,” he said. “The one thing about the newspaper business is this: no matter how good you are, most folks only think about your last mistake.”