The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

75° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Student Media estimates $8,500 loss in massive theft of Daily Wildcat”

Student+Media+estimates+%248%2C500+loss+in+massive+theft+of+Daily+Wildcat

BREAKING: Phi Psi members linked to abandoned Daily Wildcat newspapers

 


 

About 10,000 copies of the Daily Wildcat were stolen Thursday morning from newsstands across campus, an action which cost the student publication thousands of dollars and drew condemnation from media law experts in Arizona and Washington D.C.

Officials at Arizona Student Media, the university department that oversees the Wildcat, estimated a loss of $8,500, including advertising revenue, salaries and production costs.

Wildcat staff became aware of the situation at about 8 a.m. when Advertising Manager Mike Spohn saw three men take all the copies of the newspaper from a stand near the Wildcat offices in the Park Student Union.

Spohn told the University of Arizona Police Department that the men left in a tan Toyota Camry with California license plates.

Students and staff reported similar incidents across campus.

Judy Harrison, an administrative assistant for the Student Union Memorial Center, said she normally grabs a copy of the Wildcat at about 7:45 a.m., before she starts work.

Harrison said that when she went to grab her copy Thursday morning, she saw a man in a hooded gray sweatshirt walking away from a newsstand in the Student Union with a bundle of the newspapers.

Adia Pickens, a student manager at SUMC and the Park Student Union, said she saw two men running away from a newsstand near Baskin Robbins on University Boulevard with stacks of Wildcat newspapers.

Pickens said the men were wearing athletic sweats and looked like they had just gotten out of bed. She said they left with the newspapers in a “”nice black car.””

The print edition of the Wildcat contains a statement on the second page that reads, “”A single copy of the Daily Wildcat is free from newsstands. Unauthorized removal of multiple copies will be considered theft and may be prosecuted.””

However, campus police were hesitant to describe the action as criminal activity.

Sgt. Juan Alvarez, a UAPD spokesman, said it was unclear to him whether or not taking the newspapers constituted a crime.

“”What complicates this issue is that (the newspapers) were taken from areas where people can walk up and take issues,”” he said.

According to a UAPD report, an officer responding to Spohn’s 9-11 call told him that, “”While rude and juvenile, the taking of all items offered at no charge was not criminal in nature.””

The case will be inactive, the police report said.

Several media lawyers condemned the UAPD’s reasoning, saying the theft is an unambiguous criminal act.

“”It’s a crime,”” said Adam Goldstein, an attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, a legal assistance agency for high school and college journalists.

“”Although they’re not sold, these papers have value,”” he said. “”Whoever stole them deprived the newspaper’s editors of that value. They deprive the advertisers of that value. They’ve deprived the university of that service. Whoever took them should be prosecuted.””

Goldstein said the agency receives about a dozen calls per year related to newspaper thefts on college campuses.

“”It’s a highly effective, cheap method of censorship,”” he said.

Goldstein said a significant number of newspaper thefts are committed by Greek organizations or persons with friends upset about articles appearing Police Beat-type features. In most cases, newspapers are stolen to prevent the public from reading an article. However, in some cases it’s done as a prank.

“”All it takes is a bunch of people willing to break the law in the dead of night,”” he said.

Goldstein said it was wrong of UAPD to not aggressively pursue the case.

“”This is a decision they will regret if they don’t take it seriously,”” Goldstein said. “”This says, ‘Anyone with a beef with a campus organization can take their material and throw it away.'””

Many student newspapers have successfully prosecuted newspaper thefts. A civil suit by the Wildcat to recover damages would also be possible, he said.

Dan Barr, a media lawyer with Perkins Coie Brown & Bain in Phoenix, agreed with Goldstein.

“”This is theft. There’s nothing more to it than that,”” Barr said. “”When someone runs off with 10,000 copies of the newspaper, it’s to prevent people from reading them and to prevent advertisers from reaching an audience. There can be no other purpose but to punish the Daily Wildcat and its advertisers.””

President Robert Shelton also condemned the theft in an e-mail statement to the Daily Wildcat.

“”I find this theft to be outrageous and completely counter to the principles of freedom of expression that we embrace at the UA,”” Shelton said.

Prof. Kevin R. Kemper, who teaches media law in the UA School of Journalism, said the theft of newspapers threatens to squelch free speech on campus. 

“”I hope the university police and the administration take this incident seriously,”” he said. “”Even if it was intended to be just a prank, it was more than that. It interferes with the free flow of information on campus and that is never acceptable.””

It is still unknown who stole the newspapers. However, the Wildcat received several tips throughout the day from persons wishing to remain anonymous who claimed that Phi Kappa Psi fraternity members were responsible.

Wildcat reporters asked Phi Kappa Psi leadership several times during an interview whether or not members of the fraternity had stolen newspapers, but the president and vice president of the fraternity would neither confirm nor deny involvement in the theft.

“”I’m not going to talk about this at all,”” said Keith Peters, president of Phi Kappa Psi. “”We’re not supposed to talk to the media.””

— Shain Bergan, Alex Dalenberg, Carly Kennedy, Steven Kwan and Tim McDonnell contributed to this report.

More to Discover
Activate Search