Staff Editorial: Stealing newspapers only drives readership

Papers stolen from the Daily Barometer at Oregon State University: 7,000. Papers stolen from the Daily Kent Stater at Kent State: 2,500. Papers stolen from the Ball State Daily News at Ball State: 8,000. Papers stolen from the Loyolan of Loyola Marymount University: 300. Papers stolen from Driftwood at the University of New Orleans: 300.

Nation, we seem to have a crime spree on our hands.

The Student Press Law Center reported student newspaper thefts at five different universities around the country. Staff members from most of the papers said the stolen issues featured articles that could be considered controversial – the arrest of a Ball State soccer player, inflammatory columns in the Loyolan and coverage of critical comments about the student government at the University of New Orleans.

There were suspicions that even The Daily Cougar had been stolen from university racks in the past.

Driftwood Editor in Chief Rebecca Barker called paper thefts "an unimpressive attempt at censorship," the SPLC reported, and this editorial board agrees.

Stealing papers is a silly, immature and counter-productive way to protest a publication.

Before anyone gets any ideas about running off with piles of copies of the Cougar, we’d like to make a few points.

First, stealing newspapers, even free ones, is a crime. In 2003, the mayor of Berkeley pled guilty to a criminal infraction for destroying 1,000 copies of the University of California at Berkeley’s student newspaper. In 1997, three students pled guilty to third-degree criminal mischief for stealing 11,000 copies of the Kentucky Kernel at the University of Kentucky.

Even if it seems that fairly minor charges are worth the trouble, it’s also important to consider that stealing papers to hide a story, column or commentary is simply going to draw attention to it.

Today, once word gets out that papers were stolen, readers are going to go online to find out why. If the papers had been left to themselves, many of the stories would have quietly blown over. Now, they’ve garnered national attention on the same information the thieves were trying to withhold.

Every student at the University of Houston pays a student fee that supports The Daily Cougar. As such, every student is entitled a copy of the Cougar every day and is entitled to write in and let us know whether we’re supporting his or her needs and interests.

We hope the newspapers that have been hit with thefts continue to work hard to bring their readers the news, no matter who likes it or not. We hope those responsible are caught and punished, and that The Daily Cougar and every student newspaper continues going into the hands of the students, faculty and staff for whom they are intended.

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