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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Supermarket Magazine Racks - A Diet Of Ignorance


The evening of July 3rd, my husband and I stopped at our local Albertson's supermarkert to pick up some hot dog buns and a few other items needed to compliment our Independence Day cookout. It seemed that we would have a long wait, so I scanned the checkstand magazine racks for reading material.

Perhaps, I thought, I would purchase an issue of Newsweek, Time, or US News & World Report to relax with later on at home. I planned a discriminatory filp through each one in search of articles that were of interest to me. The publication with the most in-depth, up-to-date reporting would be favored with my money.

I went home without a magazine.

I don't remember when it became so difficult to find news magazines in grocery stores but the change was not abrupt. Grocery store checkstand magazine racks reflect the correlation between the recent "dumbing down" of the American public and the gradual loss of the display prominence once reserved for news magazines.

Up, down, and side to side, I searched the magazine rack that preceded the checkstand while my husband and I waited in line. My search for a serious publication was in vain. The slot, very near the floor, that usually holds Time Magazine was empty. All five copies had sold already! The majority of Albertson's selection was limited to periodicals devoted to female vanity, sex, celebrity, and the occasional few that focused on food preparation and dieting. Female-lite publications were in abundant supply.

I left the line and checked the magazine racks at the other checkstands only to be met by rows of clone-like glossy faces smiling out from under crowns of golden hair. The majority of the vacuous beauties who graced the covers of the available slicks were blondes. Brunettes were represented by Oprah and Angelina Jolie.

If I wanted to be informed as to "What Hollywood Is Wearing", try "7 Hot Bedroom Games", learn "62 Sex Moves", "15 Sexual Pleasure Facts Every Woman Should Know", or which affordable tennis bracelets were the classiest, there were dozens of reading choices. The tabloids would educate me about the political adgenda of space aliens, and for the latest celebrity gossip replete with candid photos, I could choose one of America's favorite picture books: People or Us.


Several days later, while hunting and gathering at a Vons grocery store, I noted that they offered a more varied selection of reading material. Vons actually had copies of Time Magazine and even, to my surprise, National Geographic AND National Geographic Kids!

I had been thinking about community service and how multi-million dollar corporate supermarket chains could give back to communities across America by offering shoppers a range of publications that would educate about political and global issues. Perhaps Americans would be less xenophobic if they understood more about other cultures and different values. How better to help voters make informed decisions? Imagine, magazine articles that were longer than a photo caption or a two paragraph expansion. After all, READING and THINKING have been proven to keep one's brain cells healthy!

Responsible food centers could take part in the effort to stamp out illiteracy by encouraging today's children to read. The experts in marketing employed by food corporations could focus on targeting potential readers from pre-school age all the way through high school. It's simple - use the middle spaces on checkstand magazine racks to display a good quality, diverse selection of children's publications that would range in appeal from tots to teenagers.

Public schools recently took action against the national epidemic of obesity by purging soda pop machines and sugary, high-caloried treats from school lunchrooms across America. Neighborhood grocery stores, supermarkets, and mega-box stores could take similar positive steps by replacing cheap plastic, guaranteed-to-break-before-the-day-is-over, made-in-China play things with children's magazines, puzzle books, and activity books.

When I was a little girl children's magazines were right there at my eye level on the display racks next to the grocery store checkstands. I was thrilled when someone would buy me an issue of Humpty Dumpty, Jack And Jill, or Highlights for Children! Sometimes, I saved my allowence to purchase my favorite magazines. I was also fortunate to be treated to classroom issues of the Weekly Reader throughout my years in elementary school. I have been a lifelong avid reader ever since, and thus: an INFORMED VOTER!

I volunteer as a literacy tutor at a local Title I elementary school and have purchased issues of Highlights for Children and Nickelodeon's Fun Puzzles and Games to share with the students that I work with. One little boy had never seen a children's magazine much less ever owned a copy of one. When his assigned work was completed, I would reward him by getting out the puzzle magazine. The easily distracted little boy would then practice concentrating, without knowing it, while happily hunting for words in a word search puzzle.

Several of the children enjoyed choosing stories or articles that we would then read aloud together and discuss. Shared reading experiences can be duplicated at home especially if the wonderful selection of children's reading material is readily available at the stores where most Americans shop every week.

Most Americans hope that their children will aspire to become more than bimbos or blockheads like Paris Hilton, Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, and George W. Bush. The saying, "you are what you eat", has inspired people to eat healthier foods. Perhaps what we read is reflected in who we are and what we are able to accomplish. What better reason to improve the reading diet of American citizenry?

Check out the magazine display rack at the checkstand in your local supermarket. Let me know if you find bimbos and blockheads or brain food for kids and adults.
....................Kitchen Window Woman......................


Blogger zenyenta said...

Oh, I can tell you right now. The checkout counter features tabloid gossip, mostly. There are also glossies covering home decor and diet, fitness, style and relationship advice. The diet articles are often juxtiposed with the ones that claim that this or that star is anorexic. You can't please some people.

You can find news magazines in the larger periodical section on one of the aisles, but you'll have to wade through the muscle and car mags to get there.

4:03 AM  
Blogger The Fat Lady Sings said...

Hear, Hear! And I think you may find that most, if not all of the titles you mentioned, are housed under the same publishing empire. On top of that - it's possible the parent company of the grocery stores you visited are part and parcel of that same empire. Independence of thought is fast becoming a 20th century antiquity.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Excellent post. If it's true that "you are what you read" then most Americans are in trouble. We are what we read and we are what we watch on TV and online. Everywhere we go it's the same celebrity gossip. Huxley was right. "Soma" has finally arrived; it just isn't in pill form. The public is all tranquilized on Hollywood "news" and home decorating tips, and nothing else matters.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Paladin said...

Agreed! Agreed!! Agreed!!! The poop coming out of the "entertainment complex" is skewing values and promoting materialism. How appropriate that these rags are sold next to the empty calories of the candy counter!

7:21 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

How many times can one person miss the point?

The spew to be found at the checkout counter is there by design. The knuckle-draggers running this country sure as hell don't want people to actually reflect on their activities, for good reasons. If people don't get hold of too much of that "dangerous" information, the thieving, lying scum at the top of the Federal Government can go on in perpetuity.

Bread and Circuses, and for more people every day, no bread.

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Jet said...

Prehaps it's just that women in check out lines laden with processed foods and excess sugar, see the glossy thin ones, buy the mags, read, have guilt, eat, repeat.

It's a symbiotic road to hell.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Paladin said...

Jolly... you're passionate about your material and your heart is in the right place, but I gotta tell you - you could be the poster child for Paranoids-R-Us!!

I'm pretty sure the Federal Government is not controlling the print media in this country. That checkout-stand drivel is produced because that checkout-stand drivel sells!!

Hollywood and TV syndication has manuevered the values of the average US citizen to the point that the drivel these rags offer is considered valuable.

5:00 PM  
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11:49 PM  

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