Nearly 4,000 copies of the University of Maryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback, were stolen during the early morning hours of April 17 from four campus distribution points.
The university police department is investigating the theft and the culprits could face stiff punishment if caught. Maryland is the only state that has a law specifically prohibiting the theft of free newspapers. Those found guilty could face fines of up to $500 or 60 days in jail.
Editor Jonathan Schuler said the issue contained extensive coverage of the student government election as well as an editorial endorsing a slate of candidates. The paper reprinted the endorsement in the next day’s paper accompanied by an editor’s note explaining its significance.
“We reprinted the endorsement because that was the most important thing in the paper,” Schuler said. “Since a quarter of our distribution was gone, we felt people needed to know about it.”
The Diamondback estimates 3,900 copies were taken from two dining halls and the student union. The daily paper prints 17,000 copies and distributes them before classes. Without factoring distribution, delivery or advertising costs into the equation, the paper is estimating that it lost $3,900 on the issue, based on a policy of charging $1 when quantities of five or more papers are taken.
“People were pretty upset,” Schuler said. “We put a lot of hard work into it. The main concern was that we put out this information to the community. That’s our main purpose and that’s what upsets us.”
Schuler said the paper is looking into its options for pressing charges if police make an arrest. The Maryland legislature adopted the newspaper anti-theft law in 1994 after The Diamondback and other newspapers lobbied for its creation. The Diamondback had 10,000 copies of a November 1993 issue stolen and replaced with fliers that accused it of racism.