This afternoon, Sheree Shoemaker delivered folded copies of the Lancaster New Era to homes along her Martic Township route.
As usual, she enjoyed the reaction of dogs to the treats she stuffed inside the papers' protective wrappers.
"You can just see the expression on their faces," Shoemaker enthused. "And if dog's happy, customer's happy."
Come Monday morning, Shoemaker will continue delivering treats with the merged Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era.
As far as the expectant dogs are concerned, nothing will change except the time of delivery.
But their owners and other newspaper readers will notice a far greater change as Lancaster's two daily newspapers become one.
The merger will create in Lancaster what most American metropolitan areas have had for years: one morning newspaper.
The combined circulation of the two papers - just over 86,000 - will make the Intelligencer/New Era the seventh-largest daily newspaper in Pennsylvania.
All of these papers are published in the morning.
Most afternoon newspapers nationwide have been losing circulation and some have stopped publishing as more and more readers turn to morning editions.
But the New Era has maintained a steady course during this sea change in circulation. It has been the largest remaining afternoon newspaper in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the nation.
The dictates of the economy and efficiency, however, have persuaded Lancaster Newspapers' management that one morning paper is the better plan for the future.
The merged publication will be edited by Charles Raymond Shaw, editor of the Intelligencer Journal.
The online newspaper and related Web sites will be edited by Ernest J. Schreiber, editor of the New Era. He also will direct an investigative team for the print edition.
Shaw and Schreiber will coordinate an all-day news-gathering operation that will begin early in the morning and go to press by midnight, with online updates throughout the day.
The new Monday through Friday product will be a blend of the best of the two papers - like the already-combined Saturday edition, but more so.
The Intelligencer/New Era will retain the voices of two editorial pages - one Democratic, one Republican - providing varying viewpoints on opposing pages.
In its news pages, the new paper will carry stories produced by 22 former New Era reporters and editors and 20 former Intell reporters and editors.
The quality that has prompted the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association to name the New Era the state's best mid-sized newspaper for the past five years will carry over to the new edition.
Nearly all locally generated New Era features will be retained. They include the Voices column, Eras Past (which will be renamed Flashback Lancaster), Outdoor Trails, Footlights, Politically Speaking, The Scribbler, editorial page columns by Carol Petersen and Paul E. Gottfried, Teen of the Week and Newsmaker.
Continuing local Intell features will include Senior Citizens, Taxing Matters, Jeff Hawkes' and Larry Alexander's columns, and R&R with Roberts & Rios.
In addition, the Sports and Lifestyle sections will continue running the best local and syndicated features coordinated by 12 former Intell and New Era editors and reporters.
Also contributing to the combined operation will be photographers, an artist and a network of correspondents.
Readers will receive two sets of comics, games and puzzles
So while today's final edition of the New Era as a distinct afternoon newspaper marks the end of an era, it also makes way for a new publication that will be both familiar and forward-looking.
"Our expanded morning newspaper will include features from both papers," said Harold Miller Jr., president and CEO of Lancaster Newspapers. "We now have an opportunity to concentrate all of our firm's news-gathering resources in providing the strongest coverage of communities throughout Lancaster County."
The papers that will merge Monday have long and colorful histories.
Republican from the outset, the New Era took on the GOP state machine in the spring of 1877. Its owners anticipated a "New Era" in Pennsylvania politics.
In an invitation to subscribers, New Era editor J.M.W. Geist said "the New Era will be Republican in principle; but it will be INDEPENDENT AND FEARLESS in its discussion of public men and measures...."
The paper was not launched during the best of times. The nation was mired in a depression in 1877 and the New Era's press broke down entirely on its first day of operation.
But the New Era survived those challenges and soon became the leading newspaper in Lancaster County.
In 1920, the New Era merged with the Lancaster Examiner, another Republican newspaper that had been started in 1830. For the first time, the New Era found its name on the tail end of a nameplate.
But three years later the Examiner-New Era was renamed the Lancaster New Era and Examiner, and the paper dropped "Examiner" from its nameplate entirely in 1928.
In that year, Lancaster's Steinman family, which had been in the newspaper business here since the 1860s, bought the New Era from Paul Block. Block was a national publisher with formidable resources whom the Steinmans had outlasted during a "newspaper war."
The Steinmans at that time decided to retain the Republican editorial stance of the afternoon New Era to complement their flagship Intelligencer Journal, a Democratic newspaper published in the morning.
The Intelligencer Journal also represented a merger - of the Intelligencer and the News Journal. The Intelligencer had been an afternoon newspaper until it combined with the morning News Journal in 1928.
Dating from The Lancaster Journal, founded in 1794, the Intelligencer Journal is one of the oldest newspapers still publishing in the United States.
The Intelligencer & Weekly Advertiser began publishing in 1799, and the Intelligencer and the Journal merged in 1839.
The Steinmans helped to save the Intelligencer just after the Civil War, when the paper's prospects looked grim. Over the next several decades, the Intell became one of the primary Democratic standard-bearers in the state.
Few communities in the nation have newspaper roots as deep as Lancaster's or owner families as committed to their papers.
For years, Lancaster has been the only community in the United States with one newspaper owner employing separate editorial staffs to produce two daily publications.
And now there are none.
The merger of the Intell and the New Era has required long hours of coordination by various departments, particularly the editorial and circulation departments.
As publishers and editors decided which employees and what features would be retained in the new publication, press and circulation personnel determined how they were going to print and deliver nearly twice as many newspapers each morning.
Lancaster Newspapers' press can print as many as 70,000 papers an hour, but adding inserts considerably slows that progress, according to Michael Krayer, LNP's director of production and quality.
So with a circulation of more than 86,000, the complete press run of the Intelligencer/New Era should take between two and three hours.
Each day's run must be completed by 3 a.m., noted Krayer, to allow sufficient time for delivery of papers by 6 a.m.
In order to get all those papers to homes by that time, carrier routes have been enlarged and only adult carriers will be employed, according to Keith Kirchner, Lancaster Newspapers' circulation director.
Kirchner explained that it would be too dangerous for youth carriers - who have a long tradition dating back to the 19th century - to pick up and deliver newspapers by bicycle in the dark.
"The carriers have been really good helping us through this transition," Kirchner said. "Their commitment to their customers and Lancaster Newspapers has been incredible."
Kirchner acknowledged that combining and altering routes has given headaches to circulation personnel. "The transition will take a little bit of work," he added, "but we're going to make it as smooth as possible for our customers."
Sheree Shoemaker and her dog treats will help smooth the way.
Sandy Porterfield, one of Shoemaker's New Era clients in Martic Township, was relieved when she heard she would keep her carrier. But she was apprehensive about receiving a newspaper in the morning.
"At first I didn't like the idea," she admitted, "but, honestly, we'll just read the paper in the evening as we always have."
Meanwhile, Mattie, the Porterfields' German shorthair pointer, will enthusiastically greet her treat considerably earlier in the day.
Staff writer Jack Brubaker can be reached at jbrubaker@LNPnews.com or 291-8781.