Newspaper thefts mulitply on campus

Thieves steal publications from 9 different colleged during fall 1999 semester

Across the country, at least nine college student publications\nhave been hit by newspaper thefts since September. The thefts\n-- which occurred in eight states ranging from California to Mississippi\n-- have cost the publications both time and money.

To combat the newspaper thefts -- many of which have been linked\nto disgruntled students, athletes, administrators and local politicians\n-- some newspapers have imposed limits on the number of newspapers\na student can take for free and a cost per issue for additional\ncopies to ensure that stolen issues can be accounted for financially.\n

Other publications have tried to promote forums where students\ncan discuss or protest issues reported on in the newspaper without\nresorting to stealing them.

At the University of Missouri at Columbia, thieves stole\n6,000 copies of the Sept. 9 issue of the student newspaper, The\nManeater, that publicly outed a missing student as a homosexual.\n

The stolen issue featured a controversial cover story about\nthe missing student and a theory behind his disappearance.

Jake Wagman, editor of The Maneater, said the newspapers\nwere stolen sometime during the weekend after Friday's publication.\nThe stolen papers were worth approximately $1,500.

The feature piece, "Six Months Later," which Wagman\nbelieves may have prompted the theft, told the story of the disappearance\nof Damon White, the former president of the university's Legion\nof Black Collegians and Iota Phi Theta fraternity, through an\ninterview with his mother, Janet White. The story included the\nprogression of the case since White's disappearance on March 2.\n

Janet White told Maneater reporters that her son's boyfriend,\nwho claimed White gave him the HIV virus, may have had some responsibility\nfor Damon's disappearance.

"The campus did not know [he was gay]," Wagman said.\n"As far as we know, we outed him [by publishing his mother's\ncomments]."

Wagman said The Maneater does not know who stole the\npapers.

"It's not a stretch that [the groups White was involved\nwith] were unhappy about the article," Wagman said.

The Maneater is not planning to pursue the case.

"The next day is a new day and a new issue," Wagman\nsaid. "Rather than focus on the past, we are just going to\nkeep publishing."

At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, 2,000\ncopies of the Sept. 9 issue of The Echo were stolen. The\nissue reported on the arrest of two UTC wrestlers who were accused\nof assaulting another man on Sept. 5.

Sports editor Jamie Lackey said she and news editor Nikki Middlebrooks\nsaw the theft in progress and identified one of three men as a\nformer member of the wrestling team.

The three students involved in the theft were either in some\nway connected to the wrestling team or members of a fraternity\ninvolved with the team, Lackey said. They are now going through\nuniversity judicial proceedings.

At Ohio State University, 7,500 copies of The Lantern's sports\ninsert section, First Down, were thrown away by an employee\nof the school's athletic department in late October.

The cover depicted saddened players under the score boards\nof their three losses accompanied by the headline "Growing\nPains." The paper was to be distributed free outside of the\nstadium before a game on Oct. 30.

First Down editor Chris Tribbey said Chad Schroeder,\nthe marketing associate for the athletic department, called Lantern business\nmanager Ray Catalino and asked The Lantern to refrain from\ndistributing the issue at the game because he disliked the cover\nand a column inside. The Lanternrefused to comply.

The women's water polo team promised to distribute First\nDown at the game for The Lantern, but when the polo\nteam came to pick up the newspapers -- which had been left in\nan open plaza while the distributor parked his truck -- they were\nmissing. The polo team members discovered the newspapers inside\ntrash bins nearby, took them out and began to distribute them,\nTribbey said.

Athletic staff members took the newspapers out of the hands\nof the distributors and threw them away, Tribbey said. The water\npolo team again retrieved the papers and began distributing them.\n

"If [athletic staffers] were just offended by it, then\nthey need to grow thicker skin," Tribbey said.

Tribbey questioned whether the athletic employees who stole\nthe papers were protecting their financial interest in the team.\n

"If they were protecting their dollar, well that's just\nshameful," he said.

Catalino wrote letters to the university president and the\nathletic director demanding reimbursement, Tribbey said.

The athletic director agreed to pay the advertisers for the\nadvertisements lost in the copies destroyed, Tribbey said.

At Texas Christian University, student newspaper adviser\nEva Rumpf said almost the entire 4,500 run of The Daily Skiff was\nstolen a day before student elections, possibly because the Nov.\n2 issue included a pullout section with candidate profiles and\nthe newspaper editorial board's candidate endorsements.

"We immediately shifted into high gear to try to find\na way to get this information out to the campus because the election\nwas being held the very next day," Rumpf said.

The Daily Skiff decided to pay an extra $400 for the\ninsert to run again on election day, Rumpf said. But the next\nday there were still scattered reports of empty distribution bins,\nshe said.

Editor Jeff Meaddaugh said running the insert again was worth\nit for the readers, despite the cost to reprint it.

"We regard it as a criminal act because these were our\npapers for our distribution to our campus -- one per person,"\nRumpf said.

Witnesses never came forward to identify the perpetrators,\nbut the newspaper staff has heard speculation that the thieves\nmay have been from a fraternity whose candidate was not given\nan endorsement, Rumpf said.

At the University of Mississippi, the student newspaper's\nNov. 1 issue was stolen from four campus buildings and five local\noff-campus businesses, according to Riley McDermid, managing editor\nfor news.

McDermid said at least 1,500 copies of The Daily Mississippian were\nstolen, possibly due to an editorial in the issue about local\npolitician Quentin Whitwell.

Whitwell was running for a seat as a Mississippi state representative.\nHe had publicly denounced his opponent, Gray Tollison, for his\nchoices on whom to place on the state college board, McDermid\nsaid. Tollison gave priority to minorities to add diversity to\nthe board, while Whitwell said University of Mississippi graduates\nshould be given priority.

McDermid said the editorial criticized Whitwell for the attacks\non his opponent and his stance on board representation.

Whitwell, who lost the election, left town shortly after the\ntheft. He is now being investigated by a state elections committee\nfor the newspaper theft, McDermid said.

In New York, a student protested an advertising insert inside\nHofstra University's student newspaper by throwing away\nthe inserts.

The advertisement, which contained holocaust revisionist essays,\nran in the Oct. 28 issue of The Chronicle. About 1,500\npapers were vandalized, editor Shawna VanNess said.

After being discovered by the university's public safety office,\nthe student realized he could be charged for $1,400 worth of newspapers\nand attempted to reassemble the papers with the inserts, VanNess\nsaid. She added that The Chronicle may not be able to charge\nthe student for the newspapers because he had reassembled them.\n

"We're not really sure we are [pressing charges],"\nVanNess said. "We are working with the local police."\n

VanNess said The Chronicle decided to run the ad to spark\neducated dialogue and debate.

"Instead of burying your head in the sand and pretending\nlike these people don't exist, you deal with them by countering\ntheir claims with factual information," VanNess said.

The Chronicle is co-sponsoring a forum with the provost's\noffice to discuss the issues that surfaced with the publication\nof the advertisement, VanNess said.

At Skidmore College in New York, the admissions director\nadmitted stealing 1,200 copies of The Skidmore News' Nov.\n5 issue, which contained a story about a recent anti-gay hate\ncrime.

Admissions director Mary Lou W. Bates wrote a letter of apology\nto the campus for the theft, which the editors published in The\nSkidmore News.

Editor Shawn McCormack said the newspaper saw the issue as\na matter of free speech at a private school, but he thinks other\npeople in the campus community perceived it as an isolated act.\n

"[The issue is free press], especially at a private school,\nwhere we're not really protected but by the grace of the administration,"\nMcCormack said.

Skidmore College administrators decided to file a letter of\nreprimand for Bates, have her attend lectures on the nature of\nacademic freedom and pay $700, the cost of the papers removed.\n

At Ocean County College in Dover, N.J., about 85 percent\nof the student newspaper run was stolen after it published a controversial\ncommentary about a male student who had been interviewed because\nof his unusual behavior.

Catherine Galioto, editor of The Viking News, said about\n2,200 newspapers were taken.

The commentary described a male student who was trying to get\na thousand hugs from women for a bet. Galioto said the commentary\ncalled the behavior harassment.

"We thought that it wasn't a mature thing [for him] to\ndo," she said.

The Viking News reported the theft to both campus and\nlocal police. Galioto said the newspaper does not carry a cost\nper issue, but said it costs about $1,000 to print each issue.

reports, Winter 1999-2000