Student election endorsement prompts Tennessee college newspaper theft

TENNESSEE — Shortly after delivering their bi-weekly publication to newsstands last week, The Pacer staff members noticed empty stands and began receiving tips that someone had taken their newspapers.

About half of the 2,000 copies of the March 26 issue have disappeared at an estimated cost of $273.25. The Pacer Editor-in-Chief Alex Jacobi called the situation “incredibly fishy.”

The most controversial piece in the issue of the University of Tennessee at Martin’s student newspaper was an editorial endorsing a party for the upcoming student government elections, Jacobi said. The editorial’s main focus was an issue in the YOUniversity party’s platform that proposed cutting the student fee that helps fund student publications. They instead endorsed the Real Deal Party.

Jacobi said editors believe the editorial prompted the theft. After receiving off-the-record tips that someone was throwing away their newspapers, they asked campus police to review security footage of certain buildings, Jacobi said. They filed a report April 1. Surveillance video documented the theft, she said.

“Two students here at the university were seen on the video camera grabbing the whole stack of newspapers and throwing them in the recycling bin,” Jacobi said.

The Office of Student Conduct is investigating a “couple” of the candidates to determine whether they played a role in the theft, said John Abel, who advises the Student Government Association. The outcome of that investigation could affect their candidacy, he said.

Elections were scheduled to take place Tuesday, the same day the theft was reported, but were ultimately postponed because of technical glitches.

There’s a misconception that taking a large amount of free papers doesn’t constitute theft, Jacobi said.

“I’ve seen a lot of comments where people have said, ‘well the paper’s free, so what does that matter? Why does it matter if someone steals a paper that’s free? How is that even possible?’” she said.

On Page 2 of The Pacer, the policy states that only the first copy of the paper is free. Jacobi said several people have told her they wanted to get a paper, but couldn’t because they’re all gone.

“It’s not good for the students who want the paper,” Jacobi said. “It limits their ability to get it,

and also just monetarily speaking, it cuts us and that’s not fair. Justice should be served in that aspect.”

This is the first college newspaper theft reported to the Student Press Law Center in 2014. Last year, 12 thefts were reported.

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