Student newspaper thieves strike in Missouri and California

Student newspapers in Missouri and California are the latest targets of thieves unhappy with the publication’s content.

Approximately 6,000 copies of The Maneater, the University of Missouri student newspaper, were stolen on Sept. 3 after the paper ran a story about a missing student leader.

The story created quite a furor among some campus groups when it reported that the student, who has been missing for six months, was homosexual and HIV positive, according to Jake Wagman, editor of The Maneater.

Wagman said that while students were seen carrying off large quantities of papers their identity could not be confirmed.

The Maneater has a 12,000-copy run. Although the first copy of The Maneater is free, the newspaper includes a notice that additional copies cost 25 cents each. Wagman estimates the theft cost the newspaper about $1,250.

Unlike in Missouri, there is no doubt about who took approximately 6,000 copies of California State-Sacramento’s student newspaper, the State Hornet, in early October. That’s because some of those who removed the newspapers from their racks later used copies to barricade the Hornet’s office door.

The papers were taken by members of the Latino community who were upset with a front-page photograph published in the Hornet showing the arrest of a Latino man by campus police at a Sept. 18 university football game. The photograph appeared with articles addressing the campus’ concern over safety at large sporting events.

Latino community members accused the Hornet of stereotyping Latinos and gathered on campus to speak before marching through campus emptying Hornet newstands. More copies were taken the next day after Hornet staff members had restocked the racks.

The Hornet’s press-run is approximately 12,000.

David Sommers, the Hornet’s editor in chief, says that the newspaper is looking into possible legal action.

A number of courts have made it clear that a newspaper’s free distribution does not prevent individuals from being prosecuted for taking excessive copies. Newspaper thieves have been successfully prosecuted in a number of jurisdictions, including Florida, Texas, Kentucky and California.