Towson U. journalist says campus newspapers were stolen to prevent spread of controversial story

He says thousands of editions went missing, questions response of university police

March 02, 2011|By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Daniel Gross had cracked the story of mysterious resignations among student staff at a Towson University dormitory, and, truth be told, he felt pretty good about his work.

The student journalist's pride quickly turned to frustration, however, when thousands of newspapers containing his article went missing from racks around campus. Three weeks later, Gross still wants to know who stole the estimated 3,000 editions of the Towerlight, and he says university police are dragging their feet in giving him answers.

University spokeswoman Carol Dunsworth said that campus police identified suspects in the case and that those suspects have been referred to the office of student conduct for possible punishment.

But that's not good enough for Gross, the Towerlight's editor in chief. Though the newspaper is free, he wants the thieves to face misdemeanor charges under a Maryland law that prevents a person from seizing "unauthorized control over newspapers with the intent to prevent other individuals from reading the newspapers."

After initially declining to pursue the case, the Baltimore County state's attorney's office is reviewing it further.

Gross believes fellow students stole the newspapers to prevent the spread of his article about six resident assistants who resigned because they were caught drinking alcohol in a dormitory. The story, gleaned from anonymous sources, named the student workers who resigned.

Gross said the backlash from university officials and fellow students was furious. Many said the Towerlight had unnecessarily embarrassed the students by printing private information. Gross said several students told him he was "on everybody's hate list."

The Towson senior said he has dealt with other instances of newspapers disappearing en masse after controversial stories appeared. "But this by far is the most extensive newspaper theft I've dealt with," he said.

Despite the furor, Gross said he feels no qualms about printing the story and said no one has disputed the accuracy of his reporting. "I know a lot of people were upset, but if you're not upsetting anyone, you're probably not doing your job," he said.

Gross said university police provided the Towerlight with substantial updates immediately after the newspapers went missing, but he said the information gradually stopped coming despite repeated requests. He said that when he called the Baltimore County state's attorney's office to follow up, he discovered that information provided by the university police to prosecutors was incomplete.

Gross said he is worried that campus police have not pursued the case aggressively. Dunsworth declined to comment on Gross' concerns.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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