America’s biggest supermarket chain is removing free publication racks from its stores beginning this month, prompting criticism from alternative weekly newspaper publishers.
“These are some of our largest distribution sites,” said John Weiss, founder of the Colorado Springs Independent. “As fewer people are reading the dailies, more people are getting their newspaper fix from a free weekly. It’s hard to beat our price.”
But the Kroger Co., which owns regional supermarkets Smith’s, King Soopers and Fred Meyer, said more customers are getting their news online nowadays.
“We are removing these publication racks from our stores because more publications continue to shift to digital formats, resulting in less customers requesting these projects,” a Kroger spokesperson wrote in an email.
The move is the latest blow to local newspapers in the Mountain West, which have seen layoffs, consolidations and closures in recent years. But alt-weekly readership has risen as daily newspapers collapse, argued Weiss.
“We’re popular,” he said. “[Kroger] just lumped us together with the paid dailies whose circulation is in decline.”
The company’s decision prompted the Association of Alternative Newspapers to launch a nationwide campaign Monday called “Don’t Lose Local News.” They are urging readers to call Kroger’s customer service helpline and protest.
The company plans to remove all of its free publication racks by the end of September, according to Weiss.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.