Vice President Mike Pence's new press secretary stole student newspapers in college

Last Thursday, SPLC's Twitter mentions started blowing up. So did traffic to an old story from 2012 about a newspaper theft. Turns out, Vice President Pence's new press secretary, Katie Waldman, had trashed hundreds of student newspapers while a member of University of Florida's student government. The issue had featured a prominent endorsement of a student government rival.

(h/t to ProPublica's Ken Schwencke — who was with the Independent Florida Alligator in 2010 — for pointing out our story in his tweet.)

Stealing student newspapers is a crime. Even if the papers are free.

It deprives students, and the whole community, of knowledge they have a right to, and it's typically a deliberate attempt to suppress important but unflattering stories. Common sense, right?

And yet, in 2019 there have been at least 7,550 student newspapers stolen in at least eight different instances around the country. Just last week in Virginia, The Radford University Tartan had 1,000 copies stolen and the next day, university administrators proposed instituting prior review. Earlier in September, the University Press at Florida Atlantic University had 900 copies stolen and trashed. That issue featured a cover story about rape allegations against the current starting quarterback. 

The SPLC is the only organization in the U.S. that tracks these thefts.
Newspaper theft resources

Covering Climate Strike

Reporting on the Global Climate Strike? Read SPLC's guide for covering walkouts, protests and teacher strikes in schools. We walk you through how to cover these without breaking school rules, and what to do if you run into trouble. If you are censored or have other immediate issues, please use SPLC's free legal hotline.
Read the guide

Q: Our school has a group of students on a “do not picture” list because parents did not approve photo releases. Does our publication have to cut out any photographs these students may appear in? 

A: Legally, the answer is probably no. The “do not picture list” applies to official publications of the school, and the yearbook or newspaper is a work of the students. However, it may still be worth exploring whether it’s worth it to anger a parent who feels very strongly that their child is not photographed. In a situation like that, it may be worth eliminating any identifiable photos of that student so as to avoid a bigger issue.


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