Newspaper at Okla. university stolen for story on ex-football players facing trial

OKLAHOMA — Trials involving student athletes are definitelynewsworthy. But at the University of Central Oklahoma, someonedeemed the coverage of one such case too scandalous, stealingseveral thousand copies of the student newspaper.

The Vista estimated that nearly 4,000 copies of its5,000-copy press run were stolen March 14 from approximately 25distribution bins. The issue contained an article about two formerfootball players facing trial for posting sexually explicit photosof a female student on the Internet and distributing her personalinformation on campus.

"Nothing about [the incident] was in any kind of policeblotter, but we felt it was newsworthy enough because they weregoing on trial," editor Beth Hull said.

No charges have been filed in the theft, Hull said. The universityis in the process of determining the disciplinary action to betaken against the responsible individual. His identity is known,Hull said, but it has not been released to The Vista.

Police and the assistant district attorney are having a hardtime believing the theft "was worth their time, it beinga free distribution paper," she said. "The thing thatis frustrating about it is that they’re trying to tell us thatour paper has no value."

Public Safety Director Jeff Harp said he considers the theft"a crime like any other crime," but he faces the challengeof determining "what criminal statutes have been violated."

"Simply said, somebody stole newspapers, but from a theftperspective, it’s very difficult to establish the requirementsunder law of that statute violation," Harp said.

Harp said he is having a hard time establishing the value ofthe stolen copies since the paper does not list a price. He suggestedthe paper add such a policy to future issues, stating the firstcopy is free, with a 25-cent charge for each additional copy.

"If one were visible, then anybody who picks up more thanone copy is in violation of our state larceny statute. That isa very simple vehicle to take enforcement action with," Harpsaid.

Hull said she hopes the culprit is punished to set an exampleand prevent future thefts.

"People think they can just silence us by stealing ournewspapers," she said. "It’s illegal and childish andtaking from all the hard work that my staff members have done."

Visit our Newspaper Theft Forum, featuring a checklist of things to do before, during and after a theft, along with our past coverage of theft incidents.