The Rider News staff share concerns about stolen newspapers

By Shaun Chornobroff and Amethyst Martinez

IT was only a few hours before the opening kickoff of Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles when we were notified that a number of The Rider News’ delivery locations around campus had been tampered with. In five separate campus locations, bundles of newspapers were completely wiped out or meddled with, which were discovered by a staff member who alerted the organization leadership with photo evidence on Feb. 12. 

In the weeks since, locations have been left destitute of newspapers on multiple occasions.

While university officials have repeatedly told The Rider News that the school does not see removing dozens, and on the first occasion, hundreds of newspapers from our stands as a crime or ethically questionable, it’s a recurrence that the staff of The Rider News is not only offended by, but dedicated to preventing in the future. 

According to the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), an organization that supports and defends the First Amendment and press freedom rights for high school and college journalists, newspaper theft is censorship, and a “serious threat to the viability of the student media community.” The university still lacks urgency even after The Rider News has reached out not only to Rider Public Safety, but also filed a police report with Lawrence Township Police Department. 

Upon reviewing security video of the first incident, university investigators determined that a Rider employee “rearranged and relocated some newspapers” from two separate buildings on campus, according to emails to the newspaper from James Waldon, the director of Public Safety, and university spokeswoman Kristine Brown. The employee was referred to Human Resources for “corrective action,” according to Waldon.

After finding out a university employee was responsible, we were disheartened. As a publication that prides itself on representing the entire Rider community, the fact that it was someone who is a part of that was shocking. 

Waldon’s email stated that Public Safety does not consider the incident a criminal act, but past precedents of newspaper thefts across the country that led to prosecutions and civil lawsuits prove otherwise. 

Even in the digital age, stealing a large number of newspapers is a form of censorship and something The Rider News believes it must fight against. 

When The Rider News pressed for more information from Rider Public Safety, they refused to disclose the employee responsible.

The SPLC also recommends asking university leaders to “issue a strong public statement condemning the thefts that encourages law enforcement officials in their investigation” After The Rider News reached out to Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo, university leaders have thus far not only declined to send out a communitywide communication acknowledging the thefts that have occurred over the past few weeks, but also refused to denounce the sudden disappearance of full stacks of The Rider News’ copies.

Brown said in an email on the president’s behalf to The Rider News on Feb. 28, “The University has no evidence that theft of copies of The Rider News occurred. … The University does not discuss personnel matters publicly, but it does not view the actions of this employee as theft.”

The Rider News, along with organizations like the SPLC, agree that newspaper thefts are a form of censorship, and legal precedents have been made by prosecuting those who steal them – even when copies are distributed for free to members of the community. 

Our main goal is to educate the university community, and, with the work The Rider News staff members do every single week to deliver fair and unbiased news, those who we serve deserve to read our reporting. 

The Rider News has been a long-respected and award-winning publication since 1930, and continues to be an organization that the Rider community trusts. We have had the privilege of chronicling the past nine decades of this institution, and will continue doing so.

The Rider News editorial board asks that our work be respected, and that community members take just one issue apiece. We serve the Rider community through news, sports, features and entertainment and opinion every single week. Even after public scrutiny, we deliver the truth, which is always our main goal. 

This editorial expresses the unanimous opinion of The Rider News Editorial Board. This week’s editorial was written by Executive and Managing editors Shaun Chornobroff and Amethyst Martinez

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