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Kroger screws Lansing

Posted

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 pubisher@lansingcitypulse.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.)

Comments

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working_here

"Nor will it bother to explain its decision"

They don't owe you an explanation.

I like this paper but it comes off as 'holier than thou' more often than not. You waive your journalism flag all day then write uneducated biased articles.

Maybe it's time for Berl to pass the torch.

Friday, November 15
Berl Schwartz

To the anonymous commenter:

Obviously, Kroger does not have to explain -- and it is not. But given that more than 3,100 people picked up their papers weekly there and more than 1,400 people signed the petition asking Kroger to reconsider, it seems to me a customer-friendly and community-minded business such as the Kroger Co. purports to be would explain its decision.

As for "passing the torch" -- to whom? Know of anyone? Or perhaps I should just shut down City Pulse with no explanation -- which you apparently think would be just fine.

Have a good day.

Berl Schwatz

Monday, November 18
someguy

I thought the explanation was the contract with DistribuTech ending, and apparently not wanting to renew it for whatever reason. What did DistribuTech say when you reached out to them? It seems like this isn't something to entirely blame Kroger for. I would guess their internal reason is "better safe than sorry" with the potential for backlash for carrying certain political papers.

I love City Pulse but the slant is so far to the left I can understand why they'd say "#*&%@ it" and not deal with any potential fallback. But I really am curious if DistribuTech had any comment. I couldn't find anything.

Friday, November 22

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