IOWA — Student journalists at a Des Moines university reported to campus police hundreds of copies of their newspaper were vandalized when somebody drenched them in water and scattered them outside the newspaper’s office on Thursday.
In one of the papers, an advertisement for a pregnancy center was circled with a black marker.
“Whoever did this crossed over a line,” said Austin Cannon, managing editor of the Times-Delphic, the student newspaper at Drake University, who noticed the newspapers at about 4 p.m. “I think it was very childish, very juvenile that they had to resort to this sort of action.”
Fishman said she hasn’t talked to the advertiser, Agape Pregnancy Center, but hopes the business will continue to advertise with the Times-Delphic. Agape Pregnancy Center provides ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and information about abortions. Fishman said the center has placed ads intermittently with the newspaper for two years.
The Times-Delphic published a letter to the editor in the same issue from an English and Women’s and Gender Studies professor who said organizations like Agape lead women to believe that the services are free but don’t provide “comprehensive reproductive information.” The professor said it’s “deeply troubling and problematic” that the newspaper takes advertising money from a business that deceives its customers.
In a column published in the same issue, Courtney Fishman, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, said “The Times-Delphic holds a content-neutral stance on print ads and welcomes the publication of all advertisements, unless the ad promotes illegal activity.”
“I thought the editor’s pursuit of having a dialogue about the advertisement was good enough, but apparently it wasn’t,” Cannon said.
Cannon said he assumes the papers were taken from the journalism department and library, estimating $180 in printing costs. Fishman said about 1,200 papers had been distributed around campus on Wednesday.
Scott Law, director for Campus Public Safety, said the incident “is not reflective of the type of community that we want here at Drake nor what we expect from our students.” The newspaper staff reported to campus police that 431 copies of the newspaper had been vandalized.
He said they were actively investigating the incident and could not talk about potential leads. Fishman and Cannon said cameras in the building made them hopeful the people responsible will be caught.
The dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Kathleen Richardson, said this is the first time she has seen vandalism to student publications since she came to Drake in the late 1990s.
The individuals responsible “fail to recognize the link between the kinds of things that we talk about in all our classes about encouraging tolerance of differences of opinion and freedom of expression and an ad in the student newspaper,” she said.
SPLC staff writer Anna Schiffbauer can be reached by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 127.