Uninvited: Texas publishers say Kroger ignores the Black community

NICOLE SCOTT and ROBYN H. JIMENEZ | 6/6/2014, 8:51 p.m.
“Have you been invited?”
Walter and Maxine Session stand in front of the Kroger grocery store in Palestine, Texas where they have been informed they can no long distribute their African American newspapers. TPA

Texas Publishers Association

“Have you been invited?”

It’s a simple question that the Black Press has asked its community for several years, with the underlying message, “Don’t go where you haven’t been invited.”

Many publishers of Black newspapers have expressed that stores that do not carry African American products, advertise in African American-owned media, and refuse to carry African American newspapers and magazines for its customers, have sent a clear message that Blacks are not invited.

Maxine Session, founder and publisher of The Texas Informer newspaper, said she got the message loud and clear.

The Informer is an African American newspaper that has served Anderson, Angelina, Cherokee, Houston and Rusk counties for 19 years.

During a routine delivery in August of 2013, Walter Session, Informer owner and co-publisher, arrived at Kroger grocery store to find that the newspaper shelf, that had stood for many years inside the store entry, had been removed. He immediately found the store manager Christine Tate and stated that the newspaper shelf had been removed, and he wanted to know where he could place the Texas Informer. She said that he could not leave it there, and that it was not her decision, but that of the corporate office. However, the mainstream newspapers were still in the store.

After delivering his newspaper to Kroger for the past 10 years, Tate informed Walter that placing the publication in there would be considered solicitation. She told him that it was not her decision, but that of corporate and if he wanted to continue to offer the publication to the store’s customers he would have to contact the corporate headquarters in Cincinnati.

Walter contacted headquarters, but each time he called their corporate office, customer service took a message with the response that someone would give him a call. No one did. The issue became one of many long battles in the struggle to run a minority publication.

“When you have an African American newspaper, you fight a lot of battles,” Maxine said.

But having to pick her battles, Session decided not to pursue the lost distribution drop and concentrate on moving forward.

During an interview, Tate denied the conversation with Walter and suggested that the person to talk to regarding the matter would be Brian Mixon, another store manager.

At first, Mixon claimed Kroger Corporate made the decision to stop carrying the African American newspaper. But he quickly retracted his statement and claimed the regional office in Houston would have made the decision. Rather than expound upon the decision, he suggested contacting the consumer affairs office in Dallas.

James Smith, a long-time reader of the Texas Informer newspaper, said he was very concerned when he saw the newspaper was no longer available at the store. He stated that the absence of the newspaper affects the local African American community as well as other ethnicities in the area that read the publication.

“Many other groups, Asians and what have you, not just Blacks read the paper,” he said.

Other publications, such as The Power Pages News, have reported receiving the same clear message from Kroger that they weren’t invited. The publication has served Collin and its surrounding counties for almost 20 years.