Thieves continue to steal college papers as semester winds down

Newspaper thefts continue to plague campus publications evenas the spring semester comes to a close. Student journalists reportedthree new thefts in April, bringing the total to 25 papers hitduring the academic year.

The Daily Skiff, the student newspaper at Texas ChristianUniversity in Fort Worth, estimates that around 1,000 copiesof its April 25 edition were thrown into trash bins. Costs forprinting, ad sales and copies of the newspaper — the mastheaddeclares the first copy free, while subsequent copies cost 50cents — put the total loss for the theft at more than $1,200.

The issue contained a front-page story about a fraternity beinginvestigated for hazing and a story about a player on the women’sbasketball team accused of using a teammate’s credit cards withoutconsent. The Skiff printed another story on the basketball player thefollowing day, but no thefts occurred, adviser Robert Bohler said.

Initially, a campus police detective said the department didnot consider the stealing of free newspapers a theft case.

"It’s not a theft," Detective Kelly Ham said. "Inthe state of Texas, when you put newspapers out and [they’re]free and you take 10 instead of one, [it’s not] a theft."

Only hours later, Assistant Chief J.C. Williams calledto recant the statement and assure a full probe into the matter.

"We will investigate and look into it," hesaid. "It’s too early to say whether it would be criminalor administrative within the university."

Bohler said the paper’s policy of charging foradditional copies makes the case a clear-cut theft.

"We’ve had a policy for the distribution and acquisitionof the paper for more than three years and it’s been there everyday in the masthead," Bohler said. "I don’t think thatwe should have to emblazon it across the front page that you can’tsteal this newspaper or that you can’t deprive people of the opportunityto buy this newspaper."

"I don’t believe that the presumption ought to be thatyou can steal this newspaper unless you’re told you cannot,"he added.

Student journalists at Linfield College in McMinnville,Ore., considered taking their newspaper theft case to police,but opted not to when they received assurance from the presidentthat it would be handled internally.

Linfield Review editor J.T. Bushnell said the newspaperidentified two individuals responsible for stealing 700 copieson April 19. Bushnell estimated the paper lost $497.05 based ona 717-copy reprint and a 50 percent rebate to advertisers.

The issue contained an article about a local district attorney’sdecision not to prosecute a campus worker on two charges of sexualassault.

Shortly after the paper was distributed, Bushnell said, a campusresident adviser and her friend dumped the papers into recyclingbins. Bushnell said a newspaper staff member and another studentwho witnessed the theft confirmed the identities of the two individuals.

The resident adviser was one of the students who reported thesexual assault to police. Her name was not used in the article,but the paper did refer to her as "an on-duty resident adviserand member of CATS (Consent Awareness Training Squad)."

"She was upset she was identified in any way," Bushnellsaid.

In the paper’s May 3 edition, President Vivian Bull wrote aletter to the editor condemning the thefts.

"Freedom of the press is the hallmark of any democracy,"she wrote. "Those disagreeing with the coverage of a storyor an opinion expressed need to respond in the proper manner,by writing a letter to the editor or initiating a civil discussionwith the editor of reporter. Destroying private property is nota valid or acceptable way to express disagreement."

Bushnell said no matter what punishment the students’ facefor their actions, he hopes it will deterfuture thefts.

"The point is not so much to get our money back, but ratherto show people that there are specific financial losses that canbe itemized," he said. "We want future would-be thievesto know that they would be held accountable."

Earlier in the month on April 3, nearly 1,000 copies of The Signalat The College of New Jersey in Ewing turned up missing.

The issue was wrapped in a special April Fool’s Day edition,which contained joke articles and a front-page headline that usedthe word "fuck." The paper estimates it lost $1,490.Staff members do not have any evidence why the paper was takenor who is responsible.

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.