TENNESSEE — More than 1,000 copies of the Austin Peay State University student newspaper were stolen the day the newspaper printed a report about a star basketball player’s arrest for drug possession.
On April 6, about 1,500 copies of the All State were taken from news racks, the day a controversial story about basketball player Anthony Davis–who was arrested for drug possession on March 22–was featured on the front page of the newspaper. All State adviser Kristy Galbraith said campus police arrested Davis after his dorm room was routinely checked and open bottles of alcohol and a substance that looked like marijuana were found. Just before the story about his arrest ran, Galbraith said, Davis made a number of phone calls to the newspaper saying that the information that was to be printed was not accurate. However, editors investigated and went ahead with the story, she said.
The day the story ran, Galbraith heard from students that newspapers were missing from racks, and that there were people “going around and stealing them.” She and the staff discovered numerous copies of the paper in the trash. The All State reported the stolen papers to campus police, who began an investigation.
The next day, the All State reprinted and redistributed 2,000 copies in order to meet their contractual obligations for advertising, Galbraith said. She estimates $3,500 was lost due to the theft.
Coordinator of Student Affairs Tammy Bryant said campus police officers are reviewing surveillance tapes and speaking with the All State staff for assistance. Additionally, he said, the school administration “will handle this matter as it would handle any other theft on campus.”
Currently, “the investigation is at a standstill,” Police Chief Lantz Biles said, because the police do not have any leads. He said he does not consider the reported theft to be a crime because “you can’t steal something that’s free.” However, other jurisdictions have successfully prosecuted thieves of free newspapers.
All State Editor in Chief Martin Fox said the newspaper has not gotten much support from faculty, administration or campus police.
“I haven’t heard anything from the school administration. Not a word about it,” Galbraith said.
However, Fox and Galbraith said that the local newspaper, the Leaf Chronicle, is supporting the investigation by publishing stories about the theft.
“With the kind of sway that a city newspaper has, I believe what they are doing is helping draw attention to this. If enough eyes are drawn to what was done, I’m sure somebody will be able to help us out in some way,” Fox said.
Fox added that the newspaper has a large staff, most of who are writing on a volunteer basis, and the theft was “a personal blow to each and every one of the employees who worked hard on that issue and on all the issues.”
Galbraith said that while the staff was discouraged by the theft, she sees it as an educational experience.
“It gives them a greater understanding of how important it is that the First Amendment is respected, and that their rights as students to publish, as a student press, is significant,” she said. “They do have an impact on this campus, in what they do and what they write.”
—By Diane Krauthamer