Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

52° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Editorial: The Daily objects to the prosecution of our peers

In a letter to the editor published in student magazine North by Northwestern on Friday, 89 student organizations, faculty and other Northwestern affiliates called on Students Publishing Company to drop charges against two Black students implicated in the false front pages placed onto copies of The Daily Northwestern’s Oct. 23, 2023 print paper. As of Sunday night, over 5,500 people have signed a petition urging the same.

After SPC — The Daily’s parent company — reported the incident to University Police, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office charged two Northwestern students with theft of advertising services in November. This charge is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois and carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. 

Specifically, the act of attaching imitation papers to The Daily’s print paper without a contract can be seen as theft of paid advertising space under Illinois law –– regardless of their content or status as protected speech under the First Amendment.

While the students’ alleged actions may violate Illinois law, we believe SPC’s decision to engage the criminal justice system during this investigation was unnecessary and harmful. As the editorial board, we have outlined our concerns with SPC’s course of action and asked the board of directors to submit a formal recommendation to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office requesting that charges against the two students be dismissed.

Neither SPC nor The Daily has the authority to bring or dismiss criminal charges against any person — that decision lies with the state’s attorney’s office. However, the editorial board hopes that if SPC notifies the office that it no longer has an interest in seeing the students prosecuted, the prosecutor will likely drop the charges.

The Daily did not authorize the copies nor their content. We object to tampering with The Daily, and we acknowledge that the imitated front pages damaged our relationships with community members. Our publication remains committed to free expression and sharing stories with accuracy, nuance and precision.

Despite these objections, the editorial board cannot support the criminal prosecution of our peers.

Our newspaper has always prided itself on its commitment to informing and supporting students, and we believe our publisher should play no part in perpetrating harm against the communities we aim to serve. 

Our University and community — along with the American policing and justice system as a whole — has a long history of placing people of color in harm’s way. As a publication that strives to unearth these injustices through our reporting, we remain wholeheartedly opposed to any course of action that would entwine our publication with this harmful legacy.

We hope this situation invites reflection about the impacts that people, particularly people of color, may face as a result of decisions that involve the police. Making a call or filing a complaint demands extraordinary thought and consideration beyond an action’s legality.

This piece represents the majority opinion of the editorial board of The Daily Northwestern. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members or editorial board members of The Daily Northwestern.

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