U. of South Carolina student newspaper editor says photo from marijuana rally could have led to thefts

SOUTH CAROLINA — As students at the University of South Carolina rallied for the legalization of marijuana on Monday, one man held a sign that read, “Peace, Love, Weed.”

When his picture appeared on the front page of the student newspaper on Tuesday, he wasn’t happy. He asked staff at The Daily Gamecock to remove the image from the student news organization’s website and from social media, but his request was denied.

At about the same time, hundreds of copies of Tuesday’s issue disappeared more quickly than normal. Daily Gamecock Editor-in-Chief Hannah Jeffrey said she first believed a distribution error led to the shortage until security camera footage showed they were stolen. Stacks of Tuesday’s issue were found in a recycling bin.

At one distribution location, security footage showed a man walk out of frame with a stack of newspapers and returning empty-handed “before picking up another stack and walking out of frame once again,” the student newspaper reported Tuesday.

Jeffrey said she believes the two incidents could be related.

“I don’t want to directly link it without the proof,” Jeffrey said. “All we know is that he came up and talked to our student media director and asked for the picture to be taken down. She said it was my call. And right around that time, someone came in and we have video of them taking the papers. I don’t want to connect A and B without that link but that’s our hunch.”

Jeffrey said about 15 newspaper boxes were reported empty. Because the boxes can have between 50 and 200 copies, Jeffrey said somewhere between 750 and 3,000 copies were likely stolen. About 50 copies were found in a recycling bin.

“People don’t understand the work that goes into the paper,” Jeffrey said. “It’s a big deal. Taking a couple of stacks takes two seconds, but that’s negating hours of work. It’s not fair at all.”

Jeffrey said the student in the photograph claimed he was promised the newspaper would not print a photograph including the fraternity letters on his T-shirt, which Jeffrey said wasn’t true. She told him it was against the newspaper’s policy to take down content that had already been published.

Jeffrey said she reported the thefts to campus police, who initially pointed out that the papers are given away for free. She said each additional copy of the newspaper costs $1.

Contact SPLC staff writer Mariana Viera by email or at (202) 478-1926.