Roundy’s shoppers have been able to pick up a complimentary copy of the Shepherd Express for more than a decade. As the fine A.V. Club website points out, the Shepherd Express believes that Roundy’s is not happy about the alternative paper’s political leaning and after censoring the paper from conservative leaning store locations last Spring, is now banning the paper and all free publications from all its Pick’n Save and Metro Market stores after November 5.
Until last April, the Shepherd Express was available in all Pick’n Save stores when the Shepherd ran a cover endorsement of JoAnne Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. According to Shepherd Express Publisher/Owner Louis Fortis, the day after this issue was distributed, Roundy’s told Shepherd Express to immediately remove its papers from all five of their Brookfield Area Pick’n Save stores. Now Roundy’s is extending the ban to all of its stores.
Roundy’s says this is purely a business decision that is not related to the Shepherd’s content. Roundy’s spokesperson Vivian King told Milwaukee Magazine’s Erik Gunn:
“We have made the decision to remove all free publication racks from our stores so that we may better focus on serving our customers’ grocery needs. This is a decision for all stores and all free publications. Not quite sure from where the rumors came that fueled your questions, but this decision has nothing to do with content of any publication.”
The Shepherd and many of its readers believe if that is the case, then it is a short sighted business decision, because it will inconvenience the 192,700 Shepherd readers who shop at a Pick’n Save or Metro Market.
As a private business, Roundy’s has the legal right to ban any newspaper it likes, but in doing so, they are contradicting their public commitment to community and literacy. Roundy’s proudly proclaims on their web site that “Pick'n Save is dedicated to helping (communities) through our support of organizations dedicated to…the advancement of literacy…” I would like Roundy’s to please explain how the banishment of all free publications is advancing literacy in the community they serve.
Roundy’s also has a long standing business relationship with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Roundy’s is a major advertiser in the city’s lone remaining daily newspaper and the daily paper gives away its papers and its Metroparent Magazine and promotes subscriptions at their stores. I don’t know if this relationship is part of Roundy’s business decision to ban the Shepherd Express and all other free publications, but I do know that the Shepherd Express is the only alternative newspaper in the area with a sizable circulation and distribution that can give the community a perspective different than the Journal-Sentinel’s. It will be interesting to see if the Metroparent Magazine racks do indeed disappear along with the Shepherd Express racks later this week.
The Patch local news network that hosts this blog also provides an alternate way for the community to be informed, but only the Shepherd Express provides the depth and unique perspective in print form that can be found in the soon-to-be banned publication. Evocative print news is becoming very difficult to find, and it’s no secret that all print publications are scrambling to stay afloat in a world where readers can access information more quickly and in more diverse means than ever before.
Roundy’s grocery markets and other grocers Roundy's has stocked with products have been community gathering points for more than a century. Whether it’s a community bulletin board, a table for Girl Scout cookies or a bin to pick up a free alternative newspaper, Pick’n Save and Metro Markets serve a critical role informing the public of issues and opportunities both big and small and can make a real difference in our lives. If their shoppers don’t want to read the alternative views expressed in the Shepherd, no one will make them, but it is an affront to a community’s right to be informed to prohibit Shepherd Express and other free publications.
The Roundy’s Foundation proudly proclaims that “for decades, Roundy's corporate giving has funded youth programs, food pantries, and education initiatives, among many others. The Roundy's Foundation was created in 2003 to further strengthen our commitment to the communities in which we have a presence.”
If you like to pick up the Shepherd Express at Pick’n Save or Metro Market, or even if you don’t, but you believe that people should have the chance to do so, please call Chairman Bob (Mariano), who, by the way, the Shepherd says has always been a very reasonable person, and politely ask him to continue to provide this basic service to his customers. Chairman Bob’s phone number is 414-231-5804. I called and left him a message yesterday morning and haven't heard back yet. If I do, I will post his response in the comments below.
The Pick’n Save slogan is “Living Up to Your Life”. This decision to suppress expression of views – whether alternative or not - is not living up to my life or to my expectations of one of our community’s largest gathering places.