Local woman launches drive against magazines that cross the line
Cloquet resident and mother Jodie Klanderud got tired of "overlooking" the provocative Cosmopolitan magazine covers when she went to buy groceries and the inadequately covered pornographic magazines when she tried to pay for her gas.
So she decided to do something about it.
Twice in the past four months Klanderud has presented the Cloquet City Council with petitions asking the city to ban "provocative" material from store checkout lanes and other areas where children might see them. In this case, Klanderud was not referring to porno magazines, she was referring to the numerous magazines that display barely covered women's breasts on the cover and which tease stories inside such as "Fab new vibrators" and "The Steamy Sweet Sex Secrets of 30,000 Women."
Klanderud also presented city officials with a copy of a Minnesota State Statute (617.293), which states it is unlawful to sell any "any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture, motion picture film, or similar visual representation or image of a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity, sexual conduct, or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful" to minors, or to display such material where minors are or may be present unless each item is blocked from view by an opaque cover.
"I'm just asking that the state statute be enforced," Klanderud said at Tuesday's City Council meeting, which she attended just to make sure city officials were tackling the issue.
"We're very concerned about the welfare of our children," she told the council, referring to the hundreds of signatures on the petition she previously handed in. "I'm hoping we can clean up the stores. It's everywhere."
While city officials were initially slow to respond to Klanderud's complaints, her determination is starting to see results. Letters from the city were going out to Walmart and Super One Foods stores this week, and local Little Stores have already made changes.
A visit by Klanderud to Cloquet's West End Little Store last month - where many of the opaque covers on the pornographic magazines located on the bottom three rows of the rack failed to cover everything they were supposed to cover - resulted in changes to all the locations owned by local businessman Mike McKinney.
McKinney said after he got the one (and only) call complaining about the magazines, he instructed the Little Store's magazine distributor, Valley News, to "reposition the racks and get better [opaque] covers."
"I alerted Valley News and told them to make this a priority," McKinney wrote in an e-mail response to the Pine Journal. "We are sensitive to the issue and will work it out, with or without a nuisance lawsuit."
Cloquet City Administrator Brian Fritsinger said he and City Attorney Frank Yetka had met with area stores that carried pornographic magazines about changes to the covers and those meetings had gone well.
"The bigger challenge is the other 'normal' magazines," Fritsinger said, "in terms of both cover and content."
The route the city is pursuing, he explained, is voluntary compliance with the state statute.
Both Fritsinger and Yetka noted separately that until Klanderud brought the issue to their attention, they hadn't paid much attention to the popular, mostly women's, magazines that frequently cover sex topics and sport partially-naked cover models.
"That's not the Cosmo I remember," Yetka said. "But maybe I was desensitized."
When asked if he believes magazines such as Cosmopolitan and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue are out of compliance with state statute, Yetka said that's a gray area.
"I don't think you can say that they are all violating Minnesota law," he said. "Rather than threaten action and get them in defensive mode that's why we're seeking voluntary compliance."
While Klanderud said McKinney called her and thanked her for bringing the issue to his attention, Fritsinger isn't expecting every business to react the same way.
"We encouraged the businesses to contact their attorneys and contact Frank Yetka with any concerns," Fritsinger said. "We're not unique in what's on display in Cloquet."
In the meantime, Klanderud is hoping local grocery stores such as Walmart and Super One Foods will open up a few checkout lanes with no magazines at all.
"I'd like to shop here again," she said on a recent visit to Walmart to demonstrate where she sees the store crossing the line. "But I want them to obey the law.
"There are a lot of people joining in that don't want to compromise anymore when they go get food."
State law says
According to state statute No. 617.293, it is unlawful for any person knowingly to sell or loan for monetary consideration to a minor:
(a) any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture, motion picture film, or similar visual representation or image of a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity, sexual conduct, or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to minors, or
(b) any book, pamphlet, magazine, printed matter however reproduced, or sound recording which contains any matter enumerated in clause (a), or which contains explicit and detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, sexual conduct, or sadomasochistic abuse which, taken as a whole, is harmful to minors.
The state statute also addresses the display of such materials. In Subdivision 2 of the statute, it states:
(a) it is unlawful for any person commercially and knowingly to exhibit or display any material which is harmful to minors in its content in any place of public accommodation where minors are or may be present and where minors are able to view the material unless each item is kept in a sealed wrapper at all times.
(b) it is unlawful for any person commercially and knowingly to exhibit or display any material the cover or packaging of which, standing alone, is harmful to minors in any place of public accommodation where minors are or may be present or allowed to be present and where minors are able to view the material unless each item is blocked from view by an opaque cover. The opaque cover requirement is satisfied if those portions of the cover or packaging containing the material harmful to minors are blocked from view by an opaque cover.
(c) the provisions of this subdivision do not apply to the exhibition or display of materials harmful to minors under circumstances where minors are not present or are not able to view the material or the material's cover or packaging. A person may comply with the requirements of this paragraph by (1) physically segregating the material in a manner that physically prohibits access to and view of the material by minors, (2) prominently posting at the entrance to the restricted area: "Adults only - you must be 18 to enter," and (3) enforcing the restriction.