Clearing the Air

When I heard about the theft of 2,900 copies of the Nov. 1 issue of The Famuan, I immediately thought of the free speech issues. The police have tagged it as grand theft, but it has far reaching effects.

We chose to reprint Thursday’s edition, but that came at a cost. The cost of printing is roughly $600-$800, but the cost due to lost advertising would have been an additional $1,050. So nearly $2,000 and our reputation as a responsible business worthy of other people’s money was at stake.

Advertising dollars are necessary to sustain the newspaper. The funding received from activity and service fees is not nearly enough to keep The Famuan operative. Thus, the theft jeopardized our reputation as a credible business entity.

Now that the television camera is gone and other journalists have turned to other stories, we, at The Famuan, are still interested in who are the culprits and want to bring them to justice.

Journalism alumni have joined in the quest and are offering a reward for information leading to a conviction. This conviction can come through the courts or through student judiciary. Right now the kitty is at $500 and will grow as press freedom advocates are alerted. Thanks to the McKay family, Tola Thompson, Lawrence and Ingrid Patrick, David Pittman, Lamar Wilson and Cristin Wilson for putting up the money.

Persons with knowledge of the theft can call the anonymous tip hotline at 800.501.5352.

An anonymous caller revealed that the theft was spurred by a top 10 list of questions about homecoming. Now in my opinion, the top list was a humorous piece just to generate a few weak laughs. Surely it was not worthy of censorship.

Sadly, other college campuses have been plagued by thieves attempting to silence the press. Clemson University had 8,000 copies of a 12,000 press run stolen by readers. The editors posted a $100 reward. Miami Dade Community College North Campus had the entire 3,500 press run confiscated by the college president, who was upset over spelling and grammatical errors. The president’s admission lead to new journalism equipment and improvements to the journalism program.

And at Charleston University, a group of students confiscated four-fifths of the 500 copies of the newspaper.

In some of the cases, the culprits were brought to justice. In the case of the stolen Famuans, justice must be served so that other freedoms are not soon compromised.

Valerie D. White is an assistant professor of journalism and the newspaper’s adviser. She can be reached at