FREMONT, Mich. -- The American Decency Association, based here, ran a full-page ad in The New York Times Aug. 7, pleading with supermarket chain presidents to conceal the covers of sexually explicit magazines showcased at checkout racks.
"From this national ad, we hope to bring this concern to the supermarket masses," Bill Johnson, the director of the Christian-based ADA, said. "We hope [supermarkets] will begin to feel pressures from the public about this issue."
In the ad, the ADA listed various sexually definitive headlines from several popular women's magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Redbook. Across the top of the ad, ADA wrote in bold letters, "Shame on Supermarkets! We Are Angry! And We're Not Going to Put Up With It Anymore!" The grass roots petition went on to say that they are "disgusted that family-friendly supermarkets push this moral-destroying filth." At the bottom right-hand corner of the ad, supporters of the ADA can cut out a petition in the ad and/or voluntarily send a monetary donation to the organization.
The Magazine Publishers of America, based in New York and staffed by magazine industry specialists, issued a statement responding to the advertisement. In part, it said, "the MPA believes in the right to freely disseminate legally protected material, and in this free society, consumers should have the freedom to decide for themselves what they want to purchase." While the MPA respects the association's right to disagree, the statement also said "it is unfortunate that a highly vocal minority is trying to deprive millions of Americans-from all walks of life and in all parts of the country -- of their right to purchase their favorite magazines."
Paul Luthringer, executive director of corporate communications at Hearst, the publisher of Cosmo and Redbook, said that the publishing company stands behind the MPA's statement.
Karen Brown, Food Marketing Institute senior vice president, based in Washington, said she couldn't predict what the retailers will do. "That's a decision companies will make based on the feedback of the customers." Todd Hultquist, a spokesman for FMI, also said it is up to the individual retailer to decide if they are going to do something to change the checkout racks.
Genuardi's Family Markets' Director of Marketing Services, Alan Tempest, said the 34-store food chain, based in Norristown, Pa., made a proactive move approximately six to eight months ago by enforcing a "magazine blinder program." These blinders hide the entire magazine cover, except for the masthead, and they are "for those magazine publications that may be objectionable to our customers," according to Tempest. He said, "they are enforced to protect the interests of our customers with young children."
He said the supermarket chain has received tremendous positive support for their actions.
Pat Raybould, President of B & R Stores, Lincoln, Neb., said all of his 15 stores do not display Cosmopolitan on the checkstand racks.
"We have had complaints, so we decided to put Cosmo on the regular magazine racks," said Raybould. There hasn't been a complaint about any other magazine, but Raybould told SN that if there is another questionable cover, it is at the individual store director's discretion.
Raybould said, "It has to be a very offensive cover to have a blanket concealing of a certain magazine at all the stores."
But Johnson told SN that any so-called indecent magazine displayed in a highly public place such as a checkout lane is inappropriate.
"Our highest desire is that these magazines would be gone," said Johnson. "Covering them or placing them on a regular magazine rack (away from the checkout) is more than fair."
This is the first national ad taken out by the ADA on the subject of sexual indecency on magazine covers.
According to Johnson, the ADA was a part of the American Family Association of Michigan, but became a completely independent organization last year. Donald E. Wildmon founded the AFA of Michigan in 1988, according to an ADA spokesperson. According to its web site, www.americandecency.org, the ADA "encourages citizens to guard their hearts, minds, and souls from the degrading, desensitizing impact of entertainment and advertising that in a variety of ways demeans men, women, and children."