By: Joe Strupp

Activists Claim Alternative Weekly Publishes Obscene Content

A Colorado Springs, Colo., alternative weekly that has been
fighting a distribution boycott led by local conservatives
recently won the right to return its publication to outlets of
one food store chain, but the paper remains off the shelves of
two others.

The Colorado Springs Independent, a 7-year-old paper that
distributes some 40,000 free copies each week, has for the past
year been the target of several local conservatives who assert
that the paper’s publication of profanity, explicit personals,
and sexuality is improper.

“Lately, they have been more bold in their promotion of obscene
things, homosexual and heterosexual,” said Tom Pedigo, head of
the Colorado chapter of the American Family Association, and one
of the boycott’s lead activists. “I don’t think they should be
able to go in a family store.”

Pedigo was among those who launched a boycott of
Independent advertisers in January 2000, then later
focused efforts on retailers who carry the paper. That pressure
resulted in several local King Soopers grocery stores’ stopping
distribution last November of the Independent, which had
been circulating about 2,000 copies through its stores.

John Weiss, publisher of the Independent, said two other
chains – Albertson’s and Cub Foods – eventually joined
the boycott after pressure from Pedigo and others. “They kicked
us out without even talking to us,” Weiss said of the stores that
engaged in the boycott. “We believe that if you don’t like our
paper, don’t pick it up, but let other people pick it up.”

Steve Ledman, a local youth minister, penned a lengthy letter to
local religious leaders last year asking them to urge
participation in the boycott. The letter included 11 examples of
items from Independent articles that he believed were
either obscene or anti-religious. “The Independent
consistently spews out offenses to the average church-going
Christian,” the letter said.

Ledman said that those leading the boycott do not oppose the
newspaper’s existence, but believe some of its material should
not be easily accessible to children. “They print stuff that is
the opposite of what evangelical Christians believe, and they
mock us,” Ledman said. “It’s not a balanced newspaper.”

King Soopers executives did not return calls seeking comment. An
Albertson’s spokeswoman said the paper was available at its six
area stores, but only upon request.

“There are a number of complaints that were made, so we decided
to move it to our courtesy counter, where customers must ask for
it,” said Jenny Enochson, Albertson’s director of media and
community relations. “Our role in all of this is to keep our
customers happy.”

Chuck Breske, manager of the first Cub Foods store to bar the
Independent, declined to comment, saying only that “the
customers didn’t want it. That’s something between me and the

Weiss managed to score one victory in his fight against the
boycott, persuading King Soopers to allow the Independent
to distribute again following a Jan. 11 meeting with store
officials. He said he is still trying to get the other stores to
change their policies and that he is concerned that the boycotts
could spark similar actions by other opponents of alternative
newspapers elsewhere: “If it can happen in Colorado Springs, it
can happen anywhere.”

Joe Strupp ( is an associate editor for E&P.

Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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