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The rumor mill

Posted Thursday, October 15, 2009, at 3:41 PM

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Recognize anyone?
The rumor mill is getting way out of control, folks.

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.

The problem was - none of the quotes were true ... not a single one.

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.


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

The internet is the proverbial "double-edged sword". It is great but it is terrible.

I wish Rush well in trying to make people accountable for their irresponsibility and/or purposeful damaging remarks. It may help clean some of it up.

The same could go for slanderous or purposely careless comments by political foes. It is maddening what they get away with because they are a "public figure", which Rush is so......good luck.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 4:01 PM

Rush's statement that he made about Donovan McNabb on ESPN was very much true and was absolutely a racist comment.

http://espn.go.com/gen/news/2003/1001/16...

The comments referenced by Limbaugh came during Sunday's pregame show when the conservative talk show host offered the opinion that McNabb wasn't as good as the media perceived him to be.

"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well,'' Limbaugh said. "There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

Negative reaction did not come immediately. But on Tuesday, McNabb told the Philadelphia Daily News: "It's sad that you've got to go to skin color. I thought we were through with that whole deal."

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 4:23 PM

Limbaugh turned down requests to appear on SportsCenter on Wednesday. But earlier in the day on his syndicated radio talk show, he refused to back down.

"All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something," Limbaugh said. "If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sports writer community."

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 4:25 PM

I wasn't talking about the thing from 2003, Nathan, which was well documented at the time. I was talking about this week's incident with these "quotes" that are clearly fabricated. Did you even read the link I posted above? If Limbaugh had in fact said any of those things, don't you think there would be video or audio of it? Don't you think that these "quotes" would have come out long ago? Considering that Rush's critics have monitored every syllable the man has uttered for decades, I find it highly unlikely in the extreme that he actually said these things.

I am talking about the damage that rumors can do, and what happened with Rush this week is a perfect example, although I would have to classify what happened to him as an organized smear campaign, rather than a rumor run amok.

-- Posted by Brian Mosely on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 4:53 PM

The 2003 comments do deserve a mention though, don't you think?

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 5:20 PM

No, it doesn't because it doesn't enter into the conservation about rumors and how they cause damage. There is no doubt Rush made those comments in 2003 and suffered the consequences at that time. And if that incident had been raised this week concerning the NFL flap, it would have been a legitimate argument against Rush. But I never heard that. Instead, complete fabrications were made and spread to the public on mainstream news channels. And many think they were spread with malicious intent. Just because Limbaugh said these things in 2003 does not make it right to make up blatant lies about him today.

-- Posted by Brian Mosely on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 5:41 PM

I mentioned the 2003 comments because those were the statements that I saw being discussed on television yesterday morning relating to him being involved with the purchase of the Rams.

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 6:23 PM

Give me a break. Who really cares what he said or didn't say. He can say whatever he wants. Just like those bloggers here in our fine little piece of the world.

It's the proverbial "I can say what I want but YOU can't if it is offensive to me".

I agree with you Brian, I am sure you could make up something better to do than chase that kinda junk around.

-- Posted by SirJim on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 7:23 PM

It is becoming even more obvious that those who are of the liberal persuasion are all for free speech...as long as it's their type of free speech. Anyone disagreeing with them, in their opinion, must be villified and not allowed to have a voice at all. Now I may not agree with nor like what you have to say, but I once put on the uniform of this country and swore to give my life in order to defend your right to say it.

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 8:07 PM

I didn't say that he couldn't say what he wants. I only mentioned that he has said racist comments in the past. The bottom line is I feel Rush Limbaugh is a racist. I base that on the fact that sometimes when he opens his mouth, racist words sometimes come out. That is my opinion. If you disagree, then good for you, we disagree. He can drop the N word all the time, I could care less. I too may not like what you have to say, and I also served this great nation and defended your right to say it.

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 9:04 PM

Tattoos,

Come on, this isn't just a Liberal issue, Conservatives do it just as much. This is a Human issue. It's the me, me, me complex. We all have it to some sort of a degree. Myself included, but I have been working on it.

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 9:11 PM

EM is right, it is everyone. Remember the Patriot Act? There are parts of that thing that would make your skin crawl. Everybody does this. Just because my "reality" may or may not be different than yours doesn't make mine the only one. In Nathan's "reality" Rush Limbaugh is a racist because he stated an opinion that the media had been trying to get a good black QB to rave about.

That's like saying I'm a racist because, in my opinion, (and I'm really not trying to get political here) the media wanted Barack Obama to win the election because he's black. The Europeans at least didn't try to hide that they wanted us to elect a black President. They came right out and said that they wanted Obama elected because we needed to have a black President. Although I don't see why it matters to them since there hasn't been a black head of state for any European country yet.

What I'm getting at is that you can have opinions that are, in some opinions, controversial without being a racist. I don't consider myself to be a racist, but then I don't try to hide my opinions about much so it would be kind of hard to hide it if I were.

It's been said MANY times that opinions are like anal orifices...everybody has one and most of them stink.

-- Posted by Thom on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 9:49 PM

I'm pretty sure the general purpose of Brian's entry was to give yet another warning to the many commentators that are violating the Terms of Use Agreement. I don't think the Rush Limbaugh example was intended to become the focal point of the post.

I agree it has gotten way out of hand. I like an argument just as much as the next person, especially if I know I'm right (ha ha .. kidding) .. but the commenting area has gotten so full of crap, I try to not even scroll down that far.

Nathan, maybe we should setup a quick vBulletin or phpBB so that the gossip spreaders have a place to express themselves.

-- Posted by Average_Joe on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 9:59 PM

none of ya'll get it, do you?

i, or none of us, know if limbo is a racist or not. sure he's a professional race-baiter. but he's a professional lots of things, most of all an "entertainer". it isnt like he actually believes any of these things he says. but dont take my word for it, take his. he isnt shy about pointing out that he will say anything that helps his ratings. those who believe his blarney, the dittoheads i believe they are called, are the world's biggest suckers.

the fun thing about the whole rams episode is wondering if he really wanted to be a part of the nfl, or if it is just his latest and greatest publicity stunt. on the one hand, he has amassed such a fortune, maybe he'd like to join polite society; be halfway respectable now and then. on the other hand, he is far too smart to believe he could just step away from his public persona. certainly his righteous indignation seems to be pretty well thought out. and the fake quotes are too good to be true. why would anyone make up what is readily available for real? but if he wanted to have the fake quotes to bolster his indignation... in todays world (as david points out in this blog) all he would have to do is drop them into the internet.

-- Posted by lazarus on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 10:46 PM

"the commenting area has gotten so full of crap, I try to not even scroll down that far."

That's funny!

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 10:56 PM

While I am honestly sympathetic to your position, I wonder why every journalist must wait until a complete story falls into their lap. Whether that is a press release, off the wire, public records or someone attempting to bring something to public attention, who without fail seem to have their own angle.

I am not attempting to single you, or anyone else, out. This appears to be prevalent within the entire scope of the news reporting industry. I also realize that most small markets cannot even begin to invest the treasure required to seek out the stories that the public needs to know within even the local arena, let alone nationally.

I guess I am just unreasonably burdened by the stereotype of the typical reporter that I grew up with. You know him? His name was Scoop and he was the most annoying and meddling guy in town. No one particularly liked him, as his best friend was truth, but many feared him, usually those who were doing something wrong. Where is that guy? The only "Scoops" we seem to have today are those whose primary interest is blatant agenda pushing, as opposed to informing the masses. I am guessing we may have been better off when news was supposed to be biased and we got lots and lots of it, but we each had to decide for ourselves what to trust and what was gossip, lies or posturing.

Just to make it clear, I realize that I could not do any better, nor am I trying to offend you. I actually do respect some of your admittedly original work, even though I do not like the easily anticipated audience reaction to some of it.

-- Posted by memyselfi on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 11:23 PM

memyselfi,

I miss those intrepid reporters,too.

(Kolchak,Gallagher,the reporters from the play,"Front Page" and four-color journalists like Brenda Starr,etc.)

Imagine being a costumed super-hero and getting more tickled from taking the perfect photograph or seeing one's by-line on a story above the fold.

Real life reporting has always been a little duller,a lot more difficult and far more extensive than its fictional counterparts.

Its stories have a longer gestation period but they are broader and deeper than the flashy,superficial "breaking news story" or expose' of the pulps and Saturday afternoon serials.

The sheer number of media outlets would make it tempting to churn out bushels of factoids and innuendo rather than well-documented story.

It would be easy to limit reporting to "Happy News",celebrity gossip,tabloid tales of dubious provenance,sound bites,yellow journalism and public relations packages.

The rest is harder to do and far less popular but it is the spiritual descendant of the courageous,"take no prisoners" style of truth-telling we had when prophets named Scoop (with PRESS cards tucked into their hatbands) gave us instant news yet respected the public enough to produce what we needed to know rather than what someone wanted us to think.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 4:36 AM

It all comes down to perspective . . .

-- Posted by jaxspike on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 7:41 AM

Quantum, and Memyself , those "intrepid reporters" like Kolchak were fictional. The ones who do break the big stories -- which are by no means complete when they get them -- have to follow the law, and that means proof. We are just as liable to lawsuits as anyone and the home office always has that in mind. Also, please keep in mind, that those kind of boundary-busting stories require time, money and manpower to research and verify that a small town understaffed newspaper simply doesn't have.

A far as Brian is concerned, he does an amazing job, given those few resources. He has won the Malcolm Law award for investigative journalism and consistently beats out reporters in that category who are from larger areas every year at the press awards,

-- Posted by MotherMayhem on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 7:48 AM

"Where's all the talent went?"

Maybe the same place the grammar did.

-- Posted by MotherMayhem on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 8:50 AM

In regards to Limbaugh's comment in 2003, what he said was not racist because he was stating his opinion on how the media tried to manipulate a situation to provide a certain "feel good story" of the moment which it constantly does. Would Tiger Woods have gotten as much exposure if he had been white . . . I seriously doubt it because it doesn't make as good a story when the individual isn't breaking down boundaries or barriers. Limbaugh was just making a simple observation about how media hypes up certain individuals for the sake of making more money. Thom was right in regards to Obama . . . so many times the media hyped the color of his skin than they did the man beneath the skin because it provides excitement and something different.

Anyway, I must now go sterilize myself after defending a Rush Limbaugh remark. LOL!

-- Posted by jaxspike on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 9:52 AM

I didn't say that he couldn't say what he wants. I only mentioned that he has said racist comments in the past. The bottom line is I feel Rush Limbaugh is a racist. I base that on the fact that sometimes when he opens his mouth, racist words sometimes come out. That is my opinion. If you disagree, then good for you, we disagree. He can drop the N word all the time, I could care less. I too may not like what you have to say, and I also served this great nation and defended your right to say it.

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Thu, Oct 15, 2009, at 9:04 PM

I nose what yous talkin bout laz. Them librals gots a mentul disorder voting for that muslem. Do'nt they no he is the antichrist? I red it in my bible. How could they give him the pulitser prize? He ai'nt done nuthin to deserve it! And where is his birth certificate? I nos where! It is in that hospitul in kenya! He wo'nt win in 2012 if he makes it that long!

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Mon, Oct 12, 2009, at 12:38 PM

Is this an example of a) sarcasm b) irony c) hypocrassy or d)do as I say and not as I do?

-- Posted by big daddy rabbit on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 10:01 AM

Jax, the problem with Rush's excuse for his comment about McNabb is that the NFL already had a successful black quarterback. I think his name was Steve McNair, and if I remember correctly he led his 1999 Tennessee Oilers to the Super Bowl. I am sure there are other quarterbacks that I am not aware of that came before him. I am not altogether disagreeing with you, because the media does do ridiculous things from time to time, but I just don't buy Rush's excuse on that one. I think he said what he said because deep down he has racist tendencies, and this statement is by far not the most racist comment he has ever made in public.

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 12:49 PM

Big Daddy Rabbit, by definition my comment was sarcasm.

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 12:53 PM

let any man come forward and state that he has never made a racist comment at any point in his life and I will show you a man that is not telling the truth. I don't think that very many people in this country no matter what color, race, religion, or country of origin, can honestly say they have never made a derogatory remark, about anyone based on any of the afore mentioned conditions. So let yee who are with out sin cast the first remark, to borrow a quote. Same goes for the passing on of rumors that we have heard. I think it is human nature to get caught up in the passion of rumors. It's like a drug addict, they know it's wrong, but they just can't stop themselves.

-- Posted by docudrama on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 7:16 PM

Wow...I just love a comment string that comes full circle! From rumors to racism and back again...Bravo docudrama for a great summation!

Oh, and, by the way, Nathan - Hershel Walker and Michael Vick.

-- Posted by WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 11:18 PM

MotherMayhem, I attempted to be as delicate as possible, but I guess it was not gentle enough. I do realize that the caricatures that generated my stereotype of a journalist are created entities who never actually had to function in the real world.

My question was not meant to be disparaging to those who occupy the profession, but how they are compelled to operate within the profession they occupy. Why is there no "time, money and manpower" available? There is plenty of the above to encourage the paparazzi. Is the administration of all aspects of our government any less important?

I just read the local story and comments regarding Bedford Co Schools and that represents a very good example. Does that story provide a reasonably accurate picture of reality, or is it simply the best face placed upon bad news? Does the T-G have a staffer who can read the reports, or do they lack the time? It could be that if the story came out without its make-up, it would make the area look bad, not to mention the school board. It could be one (or many) of 100 legitimate reasons why it is presented as it is, but it is not news given to inform the public as best as I can tell.

As far as Brian goes, I begrudgingly but honestly credited him for his work. I further imagine he deserves the awards he receives. I would actually like to see him cover the school board.

I do realize my grammar is substandard. I try to make my thoughts coherent, but have no training to do so. I hope my limitations do not aggravate you too much. Please try to keep in mind though that my errors are generated from ineptitude, as opposed to lack of effort.

-- Posted by memyselfi on Sun, Oct 18, 2009, at 6:15 AM

Oh, and, by the way, Nathan - Hershel Walker and Michael Vick.

-- Posted by WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot on Fri, Oct 16, 2009, at 11:18 PM

I'm going to go out on a limb here WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot (LOL BTW :p), you don't watch a lot of football.

-- Posted by nathan.evans on Sun, Oct 18, 2009, at 11:19 AM

The Rush Limbaugh fabrications are nothing compared to those fabricated comments denigrating President Obama. Ironically, Rush Limbaugh was responsible for spreading some if not most of them. One reaps what one sows.

-- Posted by Grit on Mon, Oct 19, 2009, at 4:32 PM

I do realize my grammar is substandard. I try to make my thoughts coherent, but have no training to do so. I hope my limitations do not aggravate you too much. Please try to keep in mind though that my errors are generated from ineptitude, as opposed to lack of effort.

-- Posted by memyselfi on Sun, Oct 18, 2009, at 6:15 AM

Not sure why, but that comment struck me as funny.

-- Posted by gottago on Mon, Oct 19, 2009, at 9:46 PM

Perhaps late, and with the realization that these realtions where most likely simply spurted, I simply must point out:

"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 ..."

Running this through my mind, I found the source to be one's own brother's ex-girlfriend. In my experience, though, this has also turned out to be a pretty unreliable source.

-- Posted by dreaminglucidly on Sun, Nov 8, 2009, at 8:36 AM


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Brian Mosely is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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