Fraternity compromises with student newspaper after theft

UTAH –Although a fraternity at the University of Utah has agreed to attend a seminaron press censorship after more than 8,500 copies of the student newspaper wentmissing, its president says his fraternity is not responsible for thetheft.

A security camera recorded one student taking stacks ofThe Daily Utah Chronicle on Nov. 10.Shortly after leaders of the university’s Pi Kappa Alpha chapter wereshown the tape, fraternity members came to the newspaper office to apologize,said Editor in Chief Steve Gehrke.

Gehrke said he suspectedfraternity members stole the papers because of a letter to the editor in which astudent recounted a hazing experience with the fraternity. He estimated thatmore than 8,500 copies of a total press run of 15,000 werestolen.

“It was a knee-jerk reaction, and before we could stop thebleeding it was done and it was too late,” said Garrett Clark, in an article inTheChronicle the day after thetheft. Clark is one of the Pi Kappa Alpha members who initially apologized forthe theft.

But Pi Kappa Alpha President Chase Charlin denies that theapology was an admittance of guilt.

“The papers were stolen bystudents, they blamed us. It was never confirmed it was us,” Charlin said.“We were apologizing for the situation at hand.”

Eventhough Charlin said the fraternity was not responsible for the theft, he and thefraternity agreed to attend a seminar on press censorship and media relationsled by Gehrke and a journalism professor. In addition, the fraternity agreed toproduce a pamphlet about dealing with the media as part of the agreement,Charlin said.

The seminar is open to other student organizations aswell, Gehrke said.

“There is a lot of miscommunication aboutthe process of working with the media,” he said. “A lot of peopledon’t understand that a letter to the editor isn’t somethingthat’s written by the newspaper.”

Gehrke said thatoriginally the paper had contacted the police, but they decided instead tosettle the dispute internally.

“We didn’t really wannapunish them but we wanted some kind of retribution so that this kind of thingdoesn’t happen again,” Gehrke said. “I think it’ll besomewhat effective if we can effectively engagethem.”

–by Ricky Ribeiro SPLC staff writer