Newspaper thieves run rampant
Nine schools report theft of campus papers fall semester
CALIFORNIA — For the seventh time in one year, the University of California at Berkeley’s student newspaper, The Daily Californian, was ripped off.
More than 6,500 copies of a 23,000 press run were cleaned out of several of the main distribution bins on Oct. 15, Editor in Chief Ryan Tate said. This is the seventh newspaper theft episode at Berkeley since November 1996.
University Chancellor Robert Berdahl said in a statement Oct. 16 that the university would not stand for this kind of activity anymore.
“The university will not tolerate suppression of views expressed in The Daily Californian or any other campus publication,” he said.
Tate said it was a relief to have that kind of support.
“It’s very encouraging to hear official public condemnation of these thefts,” Tate said.
The university police department along with newspaper staff members patrolled distribution bins the following morning to dissuade potential robbers.
The university police are investigating the theft of the free periodicals as a crime, but so far have made no arrests.
The newspaper staff has also begun working to ward off thieves whenever issues with controversial articles come out.
“We now try to be vigilant [patrolling] when we come out with something that might be deemed controversial,” Tate said.
Tate said the Oct. 15 theft was probably due to one of two articles appearing in the newspaper that day.
One called a pro-affirmative action group too radical and said it purposely tried to attract media attention.
The other article, an opinion piece, said a movement to add “Third World culturism” and “oppression studies” to the campus class roster needed to focus its purpose.
“Whoever they were,” Tate said, “they cleaned out the bins by 9 a.m.”
TEXAS — Two students at Texas A & M who were looking to decorate a campus haunted house stole more than 15,000 copies of the student newspaper, The Battalion, on Oct. 31.
The students, who turned themselves in the next week, followed distributors on their routes, cleaning newspapers out of several campus bins as soon as they were dropped off.
The students used the newspapers as wadded up trash to add atmosphere to a campus haunted house that evening.
Charles Self, director of the journalism department at the university, said the scariest part of the Halloween prank is that university police at first refused to investigate the theft as a crime.
The university police department said that since the publication was free, no criminal action could be taken.
However, there have been cases in Texas when the thefts of free publications were investigated as criminal acts, Self said he told police.
University police then decided to conduct an investigation and two students turned themselves in for the theft. “We don1t want the message to get out that [newspaper theft] could happen repeatedly without consequences,” Self said.
Self is working to convince the county attorney that newspaper theft is a criminal act, and is asking that the students pay up to $2,500 restitution for lost advertising and subscription fees.
The two students have not been charged with any crime and have not yet been asked to pay any restitution.
LOUISIANA — A Louisiana State University student used the idea behind old-fashioned bookburnings to protest what he felt was unfair coverage in a student newspaper.
Campus police arrested Joe Alfone Sept. 25 for suspicion of misdemeanor theft and criminal mischief after he allegedly publicly set fire to almost 1,000 copies of the Sept. 24 edition of Tiger Weekly, a conservative student newspaper at LSU in Baton Rouge.
Alfone was issued a criminal summons by the district attorney’s office.
Alfone apparently felt scorched by a piece for which he was a source that appeared in the newspaper.
Alfone said the published interview misrepresented him by making him sound like a “big, dumb hippie,” and that the end of the interview had been deleted.
Tiger Weekly editor Wayne Lewis said Alfone’s interview had been published the week before the theft and burning occurred and the end was cut for space.
The interview was for a section in the newspaper called “In Focus.” The section concentrates on personal interviews with campus individuals well-known for their political activities. The pieces are written in a question and answer style format and all the interviews are tape recorded, Lewis said.
The newspaper gave Alfone’s story 1,400 words of space.
“We certainly didn’t cut him short,” Lewis said.
Lewis said that although he was happy the theft is not going unpunished, he does not think this will have any affect on the many newspapers thefts occurring each year.
“I don’t think it will [have an impact] because I don’t think it will get enough press,” Lewis said. “If no one knows about it, then it won’t be a deterrent to potential thieves.”
Louis said this was the first occurrence of theft of the Tiger Weekly to his knowledge.
NEW YORK — Officials at St. John’s University in Jamaica suspended a sorority for the 1997-98 school year as punishment for stealing approximately 5,000 copies of the student newspaper, The Torch.
Chris Tricoles, who helps distribute the papers, said members of the Gamma Chi sorority followed him on his distribution route last April 16 and removed the papers from the bins.
Gamma Chi originally admitted to taking only about 60 copies of the edition, which contained the article “Is Gamma playing fair?”
The story questioned whether the sorority was resorting to unfair tactics to win greek competitions.
The office of student life at St. Johns conducted an investigation, in which they found Gamma Chi responsible for the theft.
The sorority was suspended from campus for one year. Matt Jablonski, assistant sports editor for The Torch, said the suspension means the sorority will not be allowed to participate in any greek activities, receive any funds, accept any members and will not be recognized as a campus organization. Jablonski also said the sorority must pay the newspaper $1,300 compensation for the stolen edition. Although Gamma Chi will not face any criminal or civil charges, members of The Torch staff said they are “satisfied” with the suspension.
PENNSYLVANIA — Staffers of the student newspaper at Drexel University in Philadelphia discovered copies of their newspaper, The Triangle, in a shredded heap piled five feet high outside the newsroom door.
The incident was in response to a controversial classified advertisement published in The Triangle on September 19.
The classified promoted the sale of “Children, 7 Africans, 14 Cubans and 8 Hispanics…Excellent condition, Love to work. Talented blow-job artists. Need to make room for winter time midgets’ sale. Buy or lease. No credit? No Problem. Factory Authorized Rebates Leasing Available…”
The Triangle Editor Anh Dang offered his apologies on behalf of the newspaper in an editorial in the September 26 edition of the newspaper. In the article, he emphasized that the ad was overlooked in the editorial process and printed by mistake. He took responsibility but also pointed out the responsibility of those who placed the advertisement.
“Most of our classified advertisements are submitted by members of the Drexel community; as a service to Drexel we offer free advertising to Drexel students, faculty and staff. It is important that those who submit ads understand the significance of having their words published in a newspaper which is read by 7,000 people,” Dang said in his article.
The newspaper does not know who placed the ad and has reported no further incidents since the classified advertisement issue was settled.
reports, Winter 1997-98