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The rumor millPosted Thursday, October 15, 2009, at 3:41 PM
Here at the T-G, we've had to come down with an iron fist as of late on those of you that simply can't take a hint and won't stop posting every little inflammatory rumor or story they hear either at the beauty shop, in line at Walmart, or within the dark recesses of their overripe skulls.
For example, just a little while ago while on my rounds snooping about, I was stopped on the square by a person who had heard that the subject of one of my recent articles had, in fact, not lost their job but was still employed.
"Wait a minute" I said. "That's just not possible."
"Well, that's what they are saying..."
"Who said this? Who are 'they'?"
"That's just what I heard..."
Well, it took all of five minutes to run down and discredit this latest, completely unfounded rumor.
It's one thing to be able to shoot down a bizarre tale floating around on the public square, but it's another thing entirely to stop one from spreading online.
A perfect example is the recent flap over the possibility that talk show host Rush Limbaugh might invest some of his money in buying an NFL team.
All of the sudden, "racist quotes" attributed to Rush started popping up all over the Internet and it wasn't long before these quotes became part of mainstream news reporting.
But this didn't stop many with partisan leanings to state them as fact. Unfortunately, to some in political and media circles these days, a blatant lie like this is A-OK, because who the target is.
Rush has deep pockets, and he has already threatened to sue those who spread the false quotes. But the damage has been done, and the talk show host has pulled out of the NFL deal.
But what are the repercussions when unfounded rumors spread throughout our community?
I will repeat what John Carney said in an earlier blog post concerning this:
Our story and blog forums aren't the place to anonymously accuse specific persons of specific illegal behavior. When and if such behavior is brought to light in a more formal setting -- in meetings, court proceedings, or news stories -- legitimate comments can certainly be made in response. But until that point, this isn't the place. Our Terms of Service prohibit defamatory content.
In my job, I hear a lot of things that would make great news stories.
Fantastic news stories. Some have made national news, for good or ill.
Many times, information that reaches my ears is obviously slanted to either benefit one party or cause serious problems for someone else.
It happens more times than you can imagine.
But, if there is something to a story, you can count on the fact that I will be all over it.
However, if no one in an official capacity goes on the record, I have no story.
No documents - no story.
If I get a call about an outlandish tale and at the end of it, I hear "please don't use my name" and it's the only thing I have to go on, I won't do the story.
If you come to me with incredible claims that would stun the region, but then refuse to provide a single scrap of evidence whatsoever to back up your story, don't expect a front page expose.
I will not waste my time chasing down something that someone heard from their sister-in-law's husband's brother's ex-girlfriend who knows someone that lives down the street from so and so ...
If you have a legitimate story, by all means, come and talk to me. Bring proof.
I will listen to you and check it out. That's what I do.
But please, let's keep the rumors where they belong, in the local septic system.
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Brian Mosely is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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