University of Vermont newspapers disappear from stands

VERMONT — At least 200 copies of the University of Vermont’s student newspaper were taken from stands last week after the paper published a front page full of crime stories.

The Vermont Cynic Editor-in-Chief Brent Summers said there’s only one lead: a person in a hoodie who was caught on camera carrying a stack of papers away from a stand in the student center. The security camera footage was too grainy even to decipher the culprit’s gender, he said.

Student Media Director Chris Evans said police got involved right away, but stopped working the case after 24 hours.

“At this point, it’s not a criminal investigation,” campus police Sgt. Dan Finnegan said.

Because the papers are free, Finnegan said, the disappearance cannot be ruled criminal theft. He said the Cynic is handling the investigation, and if someone were caught, the culprit would be referred to student affairs.

Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, said student newspapers do have value and can be stolen, even though there is typically no purchase associated with picking them up.

“The law protects the value in things you make,” Goldstein said, “even if you give them away.”

Summers said the Cynic has instituted a new policy to be included on every copy of the paper, in which the first copy is free, but any additional copies cost 50 cents each. That way, he said, the paper will have a definite price tag on stolen or discarded stacks in the future.

The stolen issue was published April 12. The theft occurred at about 8:10 p.m. on April 13.

Evans said there were no controversial stories in the paper aside from the front-page crime coverage, which included a story on a tennis player who used a stun gun on other players and a story on drunken vandals who caused $50,000 in damage.

While the University of Vermont had campus tours April 16, administrators told the Burlington Free Press that staff members were not involved.

Newspaper bins were left empty in the student center, the library and many other locations. Approximately 5,000 copies are printed weekly.

By Nick Glunt, SPLC staff writer

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