It’s official: Kroger will not reconsider its ban on City Pulse.
Word got back to me via a Kroger official in its Midwest division that the Kroger Co. will neither reconsider its national ban on free publications nor entertain looking at its decision on a market-by-market basis with an eye toward retaining papers for which there is a high demand.
Nor will it bother to explain its decision.
In Lansing, more than 3,100 people a week were picking up City Pulse at Kroger until we were booted at the end of September. Given the stores’ high foot traffic, it will be difficult if not impossible to make up such circulation. What part of it can be regained will come at considerably more delivery expense because our average pickup location is far smaller.
Kroger promotes itself as a community ally. But here it has hurt a community whose members count on City Pulse for local news and information.
This is all being done in the name of a “clean store initiative.” Yet, we’ve never had a complaint from Kroger that City Pulse was messy in any way.
Moreover, the policy is being applied inconsistently. I know of free newspapers in other markets that are unaffected. And in this market free papers such as the Towne Courier — owned by Gannett, which owns the State Journal — are not being removed. (And paid newspapers are staying.)
What a shame. Local news is getting harder to come by. The State Journal is a shadow of itself both in terms of staff size and circulation compared to when City Pulse started in 2001. TV does what it can with small staffs and alliances among local stations, but it covers a small segment of what’s happening and pays almost no attention to arts and entertainment. Attacking any local professional news source damages Lansing at a time when too many people who access social media think gossip and “reporting” by special-interest sites mistake those offerings for news.
Not everyone agrees with me that Kroger is wrong. Here’s a recent email, from Bart Reiter in East Lansing: “I applaud Kroger for removing your trashy and profane newspaper.”
But compare that to the more than 1,400 people who signed a petition asking Kroger to reconsider, and the many more who talked to managers and wrote higher-ups at Kroger headquarters. Thank you all.
We at City Pulse cannot dwell on this setback. We’re working on developing new outlets through businesses, including competitors to Kroger, to regain as much lost circulation as possible.
Moreover, City Pulse is in the final stages of establishing a nonprofit arm for investigative journalism. Our goal is not only to regain our lost circulation through more outlets but also to increase demand for the paper by improving on the content we deliver to Lansing. A nonprofit mechanism will allow City Pule to receive funds from foundations. It will also provide a tax deduction to readers who wish to support our efforts, as many have done for the last three years since we started asking for donations. Tax laws have changed, all but eliminating deductions for small contributions. But we are confident that hundreds of readers will still want to help underwrite community journalism, as they have been doing.
If you’d like to be a part of this new effort, we are looking for four citizen board members for an occasional meeting to help us determine how best to use whatever resources we are able to raise.
To apply, please email me at email@example.com with a bit of your background and why you’d like to be involved.
We can’t easily undo the damage Kroger, supposedly your community supermarket, has done. But we can do our best to make lemons of lemonades, as the sign in my mother’s kitchen always advised us.
(Berl Schwartz is editor and publisher of City Pulse.)