Two universities hit by newspaper thieves

One college newspaper’s coverage of a brutal murder and another student magazine’s conservative slant could be the motives behind why nearly 3,000 copies at the two campuses were stolen during a two-day period in early October. The two cases mark the first reported incidents of newspaper thefts for the fall 2002 semester.

A thousand copies of Marquette University‘s student publication, The Marquette Tribune, were stolen Oct. 3, the day before hundreds of parents were expected to travel to campus for Parents Weekend. Staff members noticed the distribution bins had been emptied in the student union after the paper received complaints about the issue’s front page article of a murder just two miles from campus.

After Tribune staff members refilled the bins, copies soon began disappearing again from the racks.

This is not the first time newspapers have disappeared on campus, said Libby Fry, managing editor of The Marquette Tribune. Whenever parents or prospective students are due for a campus visit, the newspapers have a habit of disappearing, she said.

Hours after the bins were initially emptied, a student union employee was seen confiscating newspapers from the bins, Fry said. A Tribune staff reporter approached the employee demanding an explanation for removing the newspapers.

Fry said that the employee claimed that managers ordered their employees to remove all copies because of the newspaper’s coverage of the murder might upset parents who were visiting the campus for the weekend.

After a local reporter came to the campus investigating the newspaper theft, copies began reappearing in distribution bins and union managers apologized for the actions of its workers, Fry said.

“The administrators who oversees those areas where it happened has called and apologized,” Fry said. Although Tribune editors received apologies, no preventative action by administrators has been taken, she said.

In a letter to the editor, Marquette’s journalism department faculty denounced all attempts by university employees to censor the campus newspaper by stealing newspapers.

Another college’s student publication 900 miles away experienced thefts during the same two-day period, but the perpetrators have gone undetected.

State University of New York at Albany‘s new independent publication, The College Standard Magazine, lost 1,000 copies of the magazine’s 4,000-copy press run on Oct. 3. Another 750 copies were stolen the next day.

University police are investigating the incidents but have not reported any suspects. Scott Barea, publisher, speculated the thefts could have been executed by any number of students or student organizations that oppose The College Standard Magazine’s conservative stance on political issues, including its criticism of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Although the police are investigating the thefts as a crime, police officials are having a hard time trying to establish what type of crime was committed, said Carl Luntta, SUNY-Albany public relations spokesman.

“One of the difficulties of ascertaining what type of criminal act has been committed is that the copies are free,” said Luntta. “They were stolen in a public place.”

Four hundred copies were returned to the distribution bins after the initial thefts.

Barea estimates the publication lost around $500 in advertising and printing costs.

Last school year, 29 campus publications reported thefts to the Student Press Law Center.