Newspaper thieves swept through 10 campuses this fall, making the semester one of highest on record for thefts. Each publication struggled to convey the seriousness of the crime to their student body as well as redeem the financial loss.
Suspects were not identified in all the cases, and in the instances where the culprits were caught, some of them managed to avoid punishment.
Three students at the University of Southern Maine were arrested and charged with misdemeanor theft for taking nearly 1,000 copies of the newspaper, but they offered to pay for the copies, and avoided prosecution.
The situation began when roughly 1,000 copies of The Free Press were stolen on Oct. 25 and another 1,750 were taken on Oct. 29. Both issues contained articles that shed negative light on fraternity and sorority organizations at the university.
Police arrested three students, Anthony Pergola, Jonathan McCorkill and Cyrus Dulac for taking approximately 750 copies of the Oct. 29 issue.
Ultimately, District Attorney Stephanie Anderson decided not to pursue the charges after Pergola offered to pay for the copies. The Free Press charged 5 cents for each additional copy. The newspaper recovered $14 from Pergola and later received $50 from Sigma Iota Sigma president Sara Poulin for 1,000 copies she said the sorority took.
To avoid a similar outcome in the future, The Free Press adopted a new policy, which states: ‘One copy of The Free Press is free of charge. Up to 10 additional copies are available for 25 cents each at the office of The Free Press. … On occasion, bulk purchases may be arranged. Payment and approval of the Executive Editor are required in advance.’
The university is considering imposing its own sanctions against the thieves. The matter is being handled through the judicial proceedings of university’s student conduct council.
In another theft episode, the newspaper editor at the University of Miami in Florida found himself in a tumultuous situation when members of his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, claimed responsibility for stealing 9,000 copies of The Hurricane.
On Oct. 5, a front-page article reporting some of the fraternity’s pledges had been accused of harassing Muslims on campus following the Sept. 11 attacks. Editor Jordan Rodack had received pressure from his fraternity not to report the story, but he left the decision up to the newspaper staff.
Rodack was unaware of the decision by some of the fraternity members to steal nearly the entire press run, and he only found out about the fraternity’s involvement when three members returned the papers and confessed to the crime.
While the administration would not reveal the punishment or the names of the individuals responsible for the theft, The Hurricane reported two of the individuals were suspended and must perform community service as well as pay the paper $4,800. The third student was put on probation.
The Hurricane filed a police report, but the editors said the university did not pursue criminal charges through the district attorney.
It is unclear whether the University of New Mexico will take any action against the nine thieves responsible for taking 2,000 copies of the Nov. 14 issue of the Daily Lobo.
After discovering the theft, editors ordered a reprint, costing the newspaper an additional $180. Later, nearly all of the missing copies appeared around campus with the addition of a flier. The insert was a campaign advertisement encouraging students to vote for a certain political party in the student government elections.
In a letter to the editor, the nine candidates whose names appeared on the flier apologized to the Daily Lobo for any ‘inconvenience’ they caused the paper, but they refused to admit to any wrongdoing because the student newspaper is free.
The student government handled the incident as an election procedure violation, and not a newspaper theft. The students were ordered to pay the student government a fine of $85.50 each for violating election rules.
Daily Lobo editor Iliana Limon said she has not received any reassurance from the university that the thieves will be punished independently from the student government. She is also unsure if they will recover the financial loss, which is more than $700.
At Baker University in Kansas, an administrator was responsible for swiping between 600 and 700 copies of the Nov. 16 issue of The Baker Orange. In an article about the theft, admissions director Cheryl McCrary admitted to taking copies because an admissions event was being held on campus.
Several campuses were hit with newspaper thefts this semester without any indication of the identity of the thieves or a hint at the motivation behind the theft.
At Jacksonville University in Florida, 1,000 copies of the student newspaper, The Navigator, were stolen around 9 a.m. on Nov. 2. The Navigator received no threats prior to the theft and editors do not know why the papers were taken.
The newspaper did not immediately file a report with city police because administrators asked to handle the investigation internally. When the department of public safety was unable to turn up any leads into the incident, editor Trisha Breedlove filed a police report. The university supported her decision.
Since papers were missing from all public distribution points available to students, The Navigator opted to reprint the Nov. 1 issue. The reprint was distributed along with the Nov. 8 edition as a ‘double-issue.’ It costs the newspaper $350 to print a single issue.
To ensure those copies were not stolen, The Navigator staff personally handed out copies.
Earlier in the semester, nearly half the copies of the Sept. 13 issue of the University of Memphis student newspaper were reported missing.
The Daily Helmsman estimates more than 4,000 copies of the paper’s 9,500 circulation were stolen from the Tennessee campus.
Editor Kate Crawford never determined a reason for the theft, but said it might be attributed to an Associated Press article containing anti-Muslim sentiments.
‘While we haven’t had any direct threats, we did have one irate phone caller saying our coverage of Tuesday’s terrorist attack was unfair,’ Crawford said.
The Helmsman notified campus police of the incident, but investigators have been unsuccessful in apprehending the culprits.
At Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Pomona, copies of the student newspaper, The Argo, were reported missing on Nov. 8
The weekly paper was distributed on a Monday and by Thursday all the papers were gone. Editor Shaun Reilly said the vanishing of all 3,500 copies was highly unusual.
Reilly speculated that the incident might be related to two separate articles in the Nov. 5 edition. One article pertained to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the college president and the other was about vandalism of student vehicles.
Newspaper thefts also occurred at the University of California at Berkeley (see Cartoon, page 4), and Tufts University (see Tufts, page 32) and Wheaton College (see Purse, page 26), both of Massachusetts.
One vandalism was reported at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Vandals struck the Daily Egyptian on four occasions ‘ June 5, July 10, July 18 and Sept. 7 ‘ placing white supremacy stickers and fliers on and inside the paper.
While campus police have not arrested anyone in connection with the incidents, the stickers and fliers make reference to the National Alliance, a white supremacist group in Hillsboro, W.Va.
View a correction pertaining to the Baker University newspaper theft.