Staff Editorial: Unjustified, uncalled for and illegal
“Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph, and the signs of horror are still in the air.”
– Henry Anatole Grunwald, former managing editor of TIME Magazine
When The Baltimore Sun extensively reported on former Mayor Sheila Dixon’s forced resignation after being convicted of embezzlement, she blamed newspapers for believing false information spread by her enemies.
When Esquire Magazine published a photo of a man jumping to his death after a plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, people were horrified. When Oregon newspaper, Hollister Free Lance, reported on the molestation of a 14-year-old girl by her father, who hadn’t registered as a sex offender even though he was married to the director of San Benito County’s Child Protection Services, county officials warned the story shouldn’t be printed for the sake of the child.
What the upset parties did not do, however, was attempt to censor the publications through theft and/or destruction of the subject matter.
Starting Thursday, Feb. 10, the currently unknown parties took issues of The Towerlight from a number of racks across campus. Although Thursday’s issue contained The Towerlight’s always-popular Towson’s Most Eligible featured content, there is little chance that so many papers circulated in that short a period of time.
This is not the first time that issues of The Towerlight have been stolen. In the past three semesters, papers have been stolen just as many times.
Pledges of a local fraternity attempted to collect as many papers as possible as a part of hazing. When a commentary on the state of Towson University’s football program was published, members of the same team were found taking stacks of Towerlights to dispose of. And now, with controversial articles and editorials printed in last Thursday’s issue, students are being denied readily available access to printed news about their campus and community.
While The Towerlight is a free publication, no one is free to take multiple copies in order to keep information away from its intended audience.
According to the Maryland Newspaper Theft Law, adopted in 1994:
(a) “Newspaper” means any periodical that is distributed on a complimentary or compensatory basis.
(b) A person commits the offense of theft when that person willfully or knowingly obtains or exerts unau- thorized control over newspapers with the intent to prevent other individuals from reading the news papers.
(c) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than 60 days or both.
The Towson University Police Department is currently reviewing recorded evidence from locations where papers were stolen in full view of surveillance equipment. If the culprits who stole Towerlights with “the intent to prevent other individuals from reading the newspapers” are identified, we will press charges to the full extent of the law.
The Towerlight is intended to serve as a forum for a multitude of ideas. This means that after the students on our staff objectively report on an event, subject or issue, readers are free to write Letters to the Editor, comment on online versions of the articles, and have an open dialogue about the subject matter. Our hope is that readers will have the option to build the most informed views on a topic and to come to their own conclusions. Stealing newspapers does not alter history and does not change the facts. And although printed newspapers were taken from racks, our website was viewed thousands of times that same day. In fact, it was the site’s most traffic-heavy day since its upgrade in August. Students, University faculty and staff, and community members were still able to discuss the information found in our print edition.
What was the result from committing this crime? Potential readers were unable to garner the information in our printed publication. What will result from committing this crime? If caught, full charges will be pressed against the individual or individuals involved.
You may not agree with what we print, but we hope you, the reader, will defend our right to print it.
– The Towerlight Editorial Board