Stories on track team, student government provoke thefts at Fla., Ala. campuses

The trend of newspaper thefts does not appear to be comingto a close any time soon. Eleven campuses have been hit in thespring semester, bringing the total to 23 for this academic year,as reported to the Student Press Law Center.

At the University of North Florida, about 80 percentof The Spinnaker‘s press run was stolen last week. Thepaper lost about $1,400 in printing costs alone, and another $900to reprint 1,000 copies of its April 3 edition.

Editor David Johnson said the incident occurred between7:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. on the evening of April 3. The paper isdistributed every Wednesday at 5 p.m.

"We print 2,000 newspapers and I would say at least 1,600were stolen," Johnson said. "I’m estimating that 100to 200 were picked up [before the theft]."

An article on the university’s track team was the apparentmotivation for the thefts. Three students came forward Mondayand admitted to taking the papers, Johnson said.

The article exposed a runner who competed under a differentteammate’s name when she did not qualify for her own event. Thereporter also included comments from all parties involved admittingto their actions.

Campus police and the university misconduct committee havebeen notified. Despite the filed report, Johnson was told thatthe case was not being treated as a theft.

"I tried to express the gravity of the situation basedon the people being prosecuted shown on the SPLC Web site, butI don’t know how seriously they are taking it," he said.

University officials could not be reached for comment.

The Crimson White at the University of Alabamawas a target during the campus student government elections –an annual event when the paper endorses candidates.

"On the first day that the newspaper endorsed SGA candidates,March 7, and when the paper broke a controversial SGA-relatedstory, March 13, we received reports that bins were emptied veryquickly," Director of Student Media Paul Isom said.

About 2,200 copies or 15 percent of the 15,000-copy press runwere taken on March 13. The daily paper lost an estimated $1,700in printing costs and advertising revenues. Isom estimated theloss for the March 7 issue was about the same for a combined lossof $2,800. Most of the bins hit were in highly trafficked areason campus.

University police and the judicial affairs department are investigatingthe theft.

"They were very open to the idea of filing the report,"Isom said. "They were not skeptical about the idea of theftof a free newspaper."

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.