Editorial: Newspaper thieves’ booty stacks up in acts of unnecessary childish retaliation

Greg Parlier

(Illustration by Joey Taravella)

“Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second”- Phil Kerby

The Spinnaker has had its fair share of dealings with thieves, dumpers and agitators. See a Spinnaker editorial from October to see all our recent relationships with newspaper thievery: http://bit.ly/IpkkTh.

But across the country, the number of newspaper crooks has reached egregious levels this semester. Since the beginning of February, seven different universities –– from Eastern Washington University to Georgia State University –– have had a total of over 3,300 papers stolen, according to the Student Press Law Center.

The reasons for the thefts, while not always confirmed, seem to center around specific stories in the stolen issues that reported on unflattering subjects or were otherwise critical of a person or segment of the university.

The most recent case, at Butler University, 600 copies of The Butler Collegian were stolen April 4 and 5 for unknown reasons. The editor-in-chief, Hayleigh Colombo, thought a story revealing an investigation into a fraternity’s assault may have prompted the robbery. The police have no leads on the case.

Regardless of who stole the papers, the effect the thieves were going for was lost the minute The Butler Collegian realized its property was taken. Since then, the SPLC, a national blog read every day by anyone involved in student media, picked up the story complete with links to The Collegian’s stories online, making the world aware of a Butler fraternity’s possible assault.

Closer to home, in February, 268 copies of the Alligator were dumped in trash bins at the University of Florida a day before student government elections. That issue included a front page endorsement by head football coach Will Muschamp of the Students Party. The culprit, Jason Tiemeier, was a member of the opposition, the Unite Party.

The Unite Party went on to win the elections by a slim margin, and former Senate
President Pro Tempore Tiemeier left the party after the incident.

The timing of Tiemeier’s act right before elections and his admittance of the crime makes him as easy target. But he wrote a letter of apology –– the only culprit to do so this semester –– and as he later realized, his actions hurt the paper, the staff and both SG parties, but most importantly, the students.

The other five newspapers who were robbed suspect the thieves’ motives to be related to stories involving fraternity or sorority hazing stories, student government diversity or students caught in other thefts on campus.

All of the newspaper bandits stole the papers because of one story, but in the process kept many other stories out of potential readers’ hands. And while that they may keep their names out of the paper that week, in the long run, they bring much more attention and embarrassment to the situation.

And it’s not as if these papers are printing scandalous, libelous or obscene articles, compelling students to steal the papers to protect their name from raucous lies. These are respectful, truthful stories based on police reports and research.

Imagine if every time State Attorney Angela Corey saw an unfavorable story in Folio Weekly, she sent her peons to overturn newspaper boxes in Jacksonville diners and pubs. Or if Gov. Rick Scott put together a task force to set fire to newspaper boxes statewide every time someone questioned his ability to effectively balance the state budget.

Not only would it seem childish and ridiculous, it would validate their guilt and incompetence in the minds of media consumers.

One factor that may help these swindlers sleep at night is the fact that most university papers are available free of charge. But students pay for their papers. Every copy of every issue is paid for through student fees or, in the case of the Spinnaker, a subscription fee.

Yet the student subjects of these reports just feel like burglary is their only recourse, not standing up for their wrongdoing and making it right, but trying to voraciously cover it up, making it all worse in the process.

It’s a bit of petty revenge best left in elementary school recess.

At the Spinnaker, we hope UNF students have left this embarrassing practice far in their past. If you have a legitimate concern with anything we write, our doors –– and ears –– are open. Meanwhile, we will continue to serve up juicy and relevant reports of university shenanigans –– good and bad –– for our readers. All we ask is that you don’t throw our hard work in the trash before you check out what’s inside.

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