Thieves trash copies of Ky. student newspaper for printing student’s rape charge

KENTUCKY — After thieves made off with an unknown number of copies of The Northerner, Northern Kentucky University’s student newspaper, the newspaper staff plans to put a monetary value on the paper, so students know to only take one copy.

March 2 issues of the Northerner were thrown away after the paper published an article about a student charged with rape.

The weekly paper, which has a circulation of 5,500, featured an article about the student as well as his mug shot that some students on campus objected to. Students, some of whom met with the staff to discuss their concerns, were upset that the accused’s photo was used before he went to trial.

Newspaper staffers found many of the newspapers the next day in dumpsters and trash bins, and were alerted to the thefts by people who wondered where all the papers had gone. They also heard from janitors who saw the newsstands left by the trash cans.

Northerner adviser Gayle Brown said she reported the incident to campus police, but does not believe anything will come of it.

Jim Martin, assistant chief for the Northern Kentucky University Department of Public Safety, said the theft is not a crime because the newspapers are free.

“No crime was committed because the papers didn’t have a value,” Martin said.

However, newspaper thieves have been prosecuted before in other jurisdictions. (See the SPLC’s Newspaper Theft Forum for details.)

Brown said it costs the paper $1,200 to print the papers each week. Northerner staffers are unsure how many copes of the paper were taken.

Copies of The Northerner were stolen several years ago as well, after the paper published comments by a professor who claimed they were taken out of context, Brown said, but she was still shocked when copies of the March 2 issue went missing.

Former Editor in Chief Emily Chalfant said members of the paper’s staff sat down with students who were upset with the story and talked about the paper’s policies, but did not know if those students were responsible for the theft.

She said she was disappointed the papers were taken.

“It’s good to know people read the newspaper, but I wish they would have voiced their opinion in different ways and not prevented people from reading the paper,” Chalfant said.

–By Rebecca McNulty