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TUPPER: Tour season brings fresh perspective

"I liked the part when we went in the printer room but then it stunk in there."

So said a thank-you note from a local elementary school student after a springtime tour at The Daily Republic (for the record, I think it was some chemicals in our computer-to-plate room, a middle step in the printing process, that caused the stink).

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Written messages from kids -- humorous, heartfelt, inspiring or otherwise -- are one of the best parts of tour season. This year, about 100 local and area kids ranging from preschool to high school toured our building. Many of them are familiar with the paper because their parents subscribe, or because they have access to some of the 2,300 papers we send weekly to 24 area schools as part of our Newspapers in Education program.

For several years now I've collected the thank-you notes that arrive in the mail from young tour-goers. The one about the stinky printer room got the biggest laugh out of me. Here are some of my other favorites:

• "I had the best experience of my life."

• "I want to work at The Daily Republic when I grow up."

• "My dad reads your newspaper and likes your stories. I think you're the best newspaper company ever."

• "I had never seen The Daily Republic it is very big. You must get lost a lot in there."

• "I wish we didn't have to cut down trees for paper. ... I wish you guys made a machine that turns plastic into paper and if we do have to cut down trees then please ask."

• "My favorite stories are the ones that there is no school."

The notes indicate that many of the kids have a fun, memorable and educational experience when they tour our building, which is exactly what we hope. But I think I get more out of the tours than the kids do. Every year, when I look at our building and our operation from the perspective of a child visiting for the first time, it reminds me what an amazing thing we do six days a week here at The Daily Republic.

Preparing for a tour forces me to learn more about the newspaper's various departments, and to walk around the building gathering up facts and figures.

Did you know our rolls of newsprint weigh about 750 pounds apiece? That our newspaper was founded in 1879? That it takes 150 people -- full-time employees, part-time employees and contracted drivers and carriers -- to put out the paper each day? That the 17-county area where we circulate our paper covers 13,251 square miles, which is bigger than the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined?

Those are all things kids learn during tours of The Daily Republic.

Really, though, it's the tour leaders who learn the most. We get to look anew at the newspaper and see how amazing it really is that we start each morning with dozens of blank pages, and then fill up all those pages with news, features, opinion pieces, comics, event listings, obituaries, advertisements and all manner of other content, and then get the whole package printed and on the customer's doorstep the following morning, when we promptly start over and do it all again.

Kids are amazed by that process, and so am I when I see it through their eyes.