After a month of ire from Nashville’s gay and allied community, copies of Out & About Newspaper will soon be back on the racks of eight area Kroger stores, officials said today.
The select stores are located in ZIP code areas that have 300 or more subscribers to Out & About. A start date for distribution has not been set. The newspaper’s previous contract for distribution at Kroger included all 34 stores in the area, in addition to three Harris Teeter locations.
“Nashville is a diverse city, similar to Atlanta, Dallas and other major metropolitan areas,” said Lynn Marmer, Kroger’s Group Vice President of Corporate Affairs, in a statement today. “Having free special interest publications, for example for seniors, families with young children or the GLBT community, is a way of serving local interests.”
Jerry Jones, publisher of Out and About, said Monday he was pleased with Kroger’s decision. He said he would have preferred, from the beginning, to pay to distribute papers at the stores with the highest levels of readership.
“Our contract with DistribuTech required us to purchase stores by the district instead of being able to choose the stores we felt would have the highest pickup rate,” Jones said. “We’re extremely pleased.”
The trouble started last month, shortly after a contract was signed for Out and About — a monthly newspaper serving the gay community — to rent distribution space at the free news racks of area Kroger and Harris Teeter stores. Out and About readers noticed that the newspapers had been pulled from the racks.
In mid-June, Out and About publisher Jerry Jones said he was told by representatives of DistribuTech, the company that leases free news rack space at Kroger and Harris Teeter, that the contract was ending. O&A had signed on to pay DistribuTech almost $1,800 monthly for space at the Kroger, Jones said. DistribuTech is a national chain based in Atlanta.
DistribuTech has drawn fire for the move, but said it was following the wishes of the Kroger and Harris Teeter chains. At the time, Kroger said in a statement that it doesn’t distribute publications that “promote political, religious, or other specific agendas.”
Nicole Bigley, a spokesperson for DistribuTech, said Monday that her company had not completed its internal review process of the publication before it was officially placed on racks at Kroger and Harris Teeter. A Kroger statement said the papers were pulled “until the agreed-upon steps were followed.”
The issue has drawn the attention of national media, as well as organizations including the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the Human Rights Campaign. Local groups involved include the Tennessee Equality Project, the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce, PFLAG Nashville, Nashville Pride and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition.
Last week, local leaders of the gay and allied community concluded a “receipt-saving” campaign, in which supporters generated more than $15,000 of business for grocery stores other than Kroger and Harris Teeter over the course of one week.
Christopher Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), said Monday that attention is now focused on local Harris Teeter stores. According to Out and About, the newspaper had maintained an outdoor box at the Harris Teeter store in Hillsboro Village for the last three years. That box was removed at the request of DistribuTech so the newspaper could pay rental fees to go in the free publication rack inside the store. The publication has not been allowed back in the store in the free publication rack or the outdoor box.
Though a statement from Harris Teeter echoes earlier statements from Kroger in citing a policy of not distributing free publications “promoting or distributing information of religious, political or other specific agendas,” a spokesperson for the company said Monday that members of senior management will likely meet next week to discuss Out and About
“Hopefully we’ll have a resolution at the end of next week,” said spokesperson Jennifer Panetta, who is based at Harris Teeter’s North Carolina corporate headquarters.
Sanders said he was pleased with the decision. The TEP headed a coalition of organizations including the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce, PFLAG Nashville, Nashville Pride and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, as well as national groups.
“It makes sense to distribute it where it fits the community,” Sanders said. “This is based on business and economics, which is why it’s not discrimination. We have a thriving, growing GLBT community in Nashville, and Kroger serves some of those constituents.”