Opinion: Thank you for trashing our newspapers

Someone threw at least a bin full of our latest issue in the campus garbage. You know, the one with rape allegations against the quarterback on the cover. But we’re not mad, we’re flattered.

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Opinion: Thank you for trashing our newspapers

A stack of our most recent issue in the garbage on Diversity Way. Photo by Kristen Grau

A stack of our most recent issue in the garbage on Diversity Way. Photo by Kristen Grau

A stack of our most recent issue in the garbage on Diversity Way. Photo by Kristen Grau

A stack of our most recent issue in the garbage on Diversity Way. Photo by Kristen Grau

Cameren Boatner, Editor in Chief

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I was happy to see most of our news bins around campus empty. Until we saw a stack thrown in the garbage. 

The UP’s latest issue featuring quarterback Chris Robison on the cover, which mentions allegations of rape, is gone from most news bins on the Boca campus. And when another editor and I saw a bin full of issues thrown in the trash, we figured something was off. So we went to FAU police and filed a report because, according to one noted attorney, you can still steal a free paper.

“It’s totally possible to commit a crime by stealing free things,” says Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. “If you go into the soup kitchen for the homeless and take the soup off the stove and poor it in the sewer, even though it’s free, you know it wasn’t all for you. Everybody understands that free to take doesn’t mean free to take every single one of them.”

Here’s what we told the police Sunday afternoon:

Managing Editor Kristen Grau and I went around to the news bins on campus and found most were entirely empty, including the issue on the front of the bin.

Most of the bins around campus were entirely empty, including the issue on display, like this one on Diversity Way. Photo by Cameren Boatner

The first copy of our issue is free for students, but each additional copy costs 50 cents. We put 50 issues in each bin. Assuming the bin on Diversity Way was full when someone decided to trash all of them, that would be $24.50 down the drain. All of the bins on campus (except three that we know of) were empty, estimating roughly $450 potentially stolen.

I was actually flattered to find the issues in the trash. That means someone read the story and expended the extra calories to make sure no one else would. It was a bit lazy, though — the perp trashed the issues in the garbage not even a yard away from the empty news bin. They couldn’t even take the time to recycle.

But that’s just me poking fun at something that’s actually really bad. In addition to being a bad thief (or thieves?) and neglecting the environment, they also took away someone’s right to know what happens on their campus.

“People have been stealing newspapers in an attempt to keep the news from getting out for decades,” LoMonte said. “It’s the oldest trick in the book. But it’s an especially stupid one now, because there’s a little thing called the Internet.”

Speaking of, you can read the full print issue here, and the online version here.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to the UP, either. In 2016, during former Editor-in-Chief Emily Bloch’s term, someone threw away copies of a story she wrote about an alleged sexual assault at an off-campus party.

FAU police found the thief, but the UP didn’t press charges, Bloch says. Local media like WPTV and the Sun-Sentinel even picked up the story, driving traffic back to Bloch’s initial article.

“When a lot of newspapers go missing under suspicious circumstances, it’s almost always a vigilante attempt at censorship,” LoMonte said. “It never works out, in fact it almost always ends up backfiring and calling more attention to the story.”

In 2010, the UP ran a story about a fraternity hazing and found about 900 copies were stolen. That same year, the paper ran a story about the chair of the philosophy department resigning. About 2,000 of those copies were stolen, the Student Press Law Center reported.

Something similar happened in 2012 when over 1,000 copies of an issue were stolen. Just a few days later, after the next issue came out, another 1,600 copies were gone, according to the SPLC.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last (assuming print doesn’t die first). 

Check back with the UP for updates. We’re working with police to find out who’s responsible for the missing issues.

Cameren Boatner is the editor in chief of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected]