Jackson Free Press vs. Gannett's ShopLocal (TM) | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Jackson Free Press vs. Gannett's ShopLocal (TM)


Published August 7, 2009 at 10:54 a.m.

In July, Seven Days ran a cover story about "local washing," the practice by which large chain retailers are rebranding themselves as "local" businesses. The story ran in multiple alternative newsweeklies around the country.

It didn't seem to ruffle many feathers here, but it has sparked a lively debate in Jackson, Mississippi. The alt-weekly there — the Jackson Free Press — added a companion story of its own. Editor Donna Ladd wrote a piece entitled: "Wink, Wink: The ShopLocal (TM) Scam." It targets Jackson's Gannett-owned daily newspaper, the Clarion-Ledger — specifically Gannett's ShopLocal (TM) promotions.

An alert Seven Days reader sent me a link to the testy online exchange between Ladd and Patrick Flanagan, the senior director of project management at ShopLocal (TM). I thought it was worth posting here, seeing as how we also have a Gannett-owned daily that uses ShopLocal (TM) promotions.

Ladd writes,

Gannett .... has been guilty of the local-washing scamfor years — and in the most blatant way. I remember well seeing aShopLocal.com ad pop up on the Clarion-Ledger's Web site a few yearsback. For about a minute, I thought the mega-corporation was finallycatching up on the need to put locally owned businesses front andcenter. Of course, I was wrong.

Remarkably, the company sees nothing wrong with slinging around thephrase ShopLocal™ (yes, it's trademarked) in order to promote ... waitfor it ... big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Office Depot. When youclick to ShopLocal.com,it recognizes your zip code and re-directs you to the Jackson page.There, you quickly see what they are calling "local": CVS, Target, BestBuy.

Patrick Flanagan called Ladd out in a post on the ShopLocal (TM) blog, arguing that big-box chain stores are "national-local" — as opposed to "local-local" or "hyper-local." Sadly, his post is full of typos, including an embarrassing mistake in the headline — "Sorry Ms. Ladd Of The Jackson Free Press, Your’re Just Wrong. ShopLocal IS Local." Whoops.

Not surprisingly, Ladd fired back. Read her reply here.

The whole back-and-forth is definitely worth reading, especially if you're someone who cares about the meaning of the word "local."

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