By: Mark Fitzgerald
Student, and paper, disappear amid controversy
About 6,000 copies of the University of Missouri-Columbia student newspaper were stolen over Labor Day weekend, apparently by people upset over an article about the disappearance of a black campus and fraternity leader.
The theft amounted to about half of the entire press run of The Maneater, published twice weekly.
Editor in chief Jake Wagman says he doesn’t know who stole the papers, but he has a pretty good idea why.
The issue’s front-page article reported on the disappearance for the last six months of Damon T. Rucker White, the former president of the university’s Legion of Black Collegians and of the campus chapter of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity. According to family members quoted in the article, White is a homosexual who is hiv-positive. His family, the article said, believes an unnamed man they identify as White’s “ex-boyfriend” blames White for infecting him with the aids virus. They believe the man is linked to White’s disappearance.
“A lot of people weren’t happy” that the newspaper reported that White is gay, Wagman said. “People did have a problem with that. The story was a real blockbuster. It was a tough decision here whether to run it.”
In the days since the papers were stolen, no one has claimed responsibility, Wagman says. The paper reported the theft to the police “just as a matter of protocol,” Wagman said, but was told there was no crime because the paper is distributed free. Like other free papers, The Maneater publishes a notice that the first copy is free and each additional copy costs 25 cents.
“The people who did this may think they were doing some Ghandiesque act of civil disobedience,” Wagman said, “when in reality it was not democratic at all. It was censorship in its most base form.”
White has been missing since March 2. A week later, The Maneater reported White’s disappearance, detailing how White borrowed his sister’s car and said he’d return in an hour. Police located the car days later, but found no sign of the student leader.
(Editor & Publisher WebSite:http:www.mediainfo.com) [Caption]
(copyright: Editor & Publisher September 18, 1999) [Caption]