MARYLAND — Nearly 4,000 copies of the University ofMaryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback, were stolenearly Wednesday morning from four campus distribution points.
The university police department is investigating the theftand the culprits could face stiff punishment if caught. Marylandis the only state that has a law specifically prohibiting thetheft of free newspapers. Those found guilty could face finesof up to $500 or 60 days in jail.
Editor Jonathan Schuler said the issue contained extensivecoverage of the student government election being held this week as well as an editorial endorsing a slate of candidates.The paper reprinted the endorsement in today’s paper accompaniedby an editor’s note explaining its significance.
"We reprinted the endorsement because that was the mostimportant thing in the paper," Schuler said. "Sincea quarter of our distribution was gone, we felt people neededto know about it."
The Diamondback estimates 3,900 copies were taken fromtwo dining halls and the student union. The daily paper prints17,000 copies and distributes them before classes. Without factoringdistribution, delivery or advertising costs into the equation,the paper is estimating that it lost $3,900 on the issue, basedon a policy of charging $1 when quantities of five or more papersare taken.
Michael Fribush, general manager of The Diamondback‘sparent company, Maryland Media Inc., first noticed the missingpapers around 9 a.m., the paper reported. The Diamondback‘sdelivery crew said they dropped off the papers earlier in theday.
"People were pretty upset," Schuler said. "Weput a lot of hard work into it. The main concern was that we putout this information to the community. That’s our main purposeand that’s what upsets us."
Schuler said the paper is looking into its options for pressingcharges if police make an arrest. The Maryland legislature adoptedthe newspaper anti-theft law in 1994 after The Diamondbackand other newspapers lobbied for its creation. The Diamondbackhad 10,000 copies of a November 1993 issue stolen and replacedwith fliers that accused it of racism.
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.View the Maryland Newspaper Anti-Theft Law in our Law Library.