"This is last thing that I thought would happen," said Jerry Jones, publisher of Out and About, a monthly newspaper for gay and lesbian readers in Tennessee. "It's a concern because it could happen to any publication."
A Kroger Co. spokeswoman said the Cincinnati-based company has a policy against displaying publications that promote "political, religious or other specific agendas" and cited the need to remain neutral.
But newspaper supporters say Kroger enforces the policy inconsistently, noting that Kroger allows the display of gay newspapers at its stores in other markets, such as Atlanta, and alternative weekly newspapers with political columns and ads for strip clubs in the Nashville area.
Kroger spokeswoman Melissa Eads said the policy speaks for itself and declined to answer further questions Tuesday.
"Kroger strives to be a store for the entire community, and that necessitates remaining neutral on many issues," the company said in a statement. "We think this is a fair approach to everyone."
But Kroger allows The Southern Voice, an Atlanta-based gay and lesbian newspaper, to be distributed on its stands in Atlanta-area stores. The grocery chain also advertises in the paper.
"It would be interesting to know why there is a different policy from one store to another," said John Wade, president of the Nashville Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Chamber of Commerce.
The Nashville Scene, an alternative weekly, is offered for free at Kroger stores in Nashville, and it regularly publishes political columns, along with advertisements for strip clubs and dating phone lines.
For the three weeks the May issue of Out and About was available at Kroger, about 3,500 issues were picked up, Jones said, a significant number for a newspaper that usually distributes about 14,000 copies.
Jones said the newspaper has no sexually explicit content and does not accept ads for dating or chat phone lines.
"The local Kroger managers that I've talked to received no complaints," he said.
"If Kroger were to review the paper, they would find it is a very clean and well-produced newspaper," Wade said. "The public perception of anything within the gay community is that it's sexual in nature. I think they are reacting to perception, which is not necessarily the reality."
Kroger, the nation's largest traditional grocery chain, operates 2,468 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states, under two dozen local banners. Copyright 2007 Associated Press.Evolving our Vision...
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