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Letter sent to Kroger over free paper ban

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Posted at 6:45 PM, Sep 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-23 18:45:45-04

LANSING, Mich. — Kroger is no longer allowing free newspapers in their grocery stores across the nation.

But now, several Michigan politicians are appealing the ban.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, State Representative Kara Hope, and State Senator Curtis Hertel are among those who signed a letter to Kroger's CEO Rodney McMullen.

It says free local publications fill a gap in communities as many traditional news organizations downsize and move to online content.

The official free paper ban at Kroger takes effect at the end of the month.

Here's the letter that was sent to Kroger:
Lansing Mayor, State Legislators Ask Kroger to Reconsider Banning Free Publications

Contact: Berl Schwartz publisher@lansingcitypulse.com (517) 819-9811 (cell)

LANSING, Sept. 23 — Lansing Mayor Andy Schor and five members of the Michigan Legislature are appealing to the Kroger Co. to drop its recently announced ban on free newspapers and other publications.

“Kroger’s assertion that paid newspapers are transitioning to a digital world is not wrong. But it comes at a cost to local news coverage because reduced advertising and subscription revenues have forced many traditional news organizations across the country to downsize,” they said today in a letter to Kroger, the nation’s biggest supermarket chain.

“This gap is being filled in many communities by free publications such as Lansing, Michigan’s City Pulse, whose continued viability as a local newspaper is directly threatened by Kroger’s decision.”

The letter was sent Friday to Rodney McMullen, chairman and chief executive officer of Kroger. Besides Schor, it was signed by state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. and state Reps. Sarah Anthony, Julie Brixie, Kara Hope and Angela Witwer.

The ban takes effect in Michigan at the end of the month. It is already in place in some markets.

The letter, which is attached, also points out that in the Lansing market, City Pulse carries the bulk of public notices for area governments, “another important reason we want to keep this publication strong.”

City Pulse publisher Berl Schwartz said that while Kroger is correct that paid daily newspapers are struggling, City Pulse has grown — in no small part due to Kroger. Distribution at the area’s six Kroger stores has climbed nearly threefold since 2012, from about 1,100 to over 3,100. He said it represents more than 15% of City Pulse’s circulation.

“If we lose Kroger, it will be very difficult to regain this readership because the pickup at Kroger stores is as much as 10 times more than our average location, due to foot traffic.

“This will be a blow to local journalism. Fewer readers mean fewer pages. Ultimately advertisers want eyeballs, and our revenue depends almost entirely on advertising.
“Kroger is considered a good community partner — but in this case it is going to hurt communities here and elsewhere around the country. We hope Kroger will take these concerns to heart and reconsider,” Schwartz said.

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