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When to chase a rumor?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by DemoChristian, Sep 1, 2008.

  1. Because it got two other threads locked, I won't even go into what sparked this thread.
    I want to discuss, though, at what point we, as journalists, should spend our time chasing a rumor.
    I've said before I would never report, "The rumor is..." My question is how you decide what is worth looking into.
    Obviously you can't spend all your time chasing every wild thing you hear.
    So what is your standard? What changes it from a brushoff to a potential tip?
  2. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    Funny because last week our ME came up to me with a rumor about a local kid who allegedly had transferred to his home college from a high-profile program and was playing for the football team.

    She had a look on her face that indicated the rumor was true and we better get on it right away.

    Both rumors were not true. Fortunately, me and another guy wasted only five minutes chasing it.
  3. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    At my old shop the EIC heard a rumor that a school's basketball court wasn't the correct size and that's why they hadn't hosted a district game. I told him it wasn't true because I had been there and seen the court. He had me go and measure the thing anyway. We ran a front page story on the rumor and how it was the correct size. I was not happy about that - I told him if we're going to do this once, we have to do it for every gym in our area.
  4. I do believe in doing stories simply to dismiss rumors, but only if they are persistent.
  5. nibs price

    nibs price Member

    The question for you, DC, is what KIND or rumors? Just any run of the mill rumor, or just the juicy ones? I think it is called discernment.
  6. Some juicy rumors are true and some aren't. Some run-of-the-mill rumors are true and some aren't.
    What I'm saying is, how do you discern?
    You probably don't have any hard and fast rules, but in general, how do you decide?
    For example, I have heard rumors that I was certain were untrue. You ignore them at first. But when they start to pick up steam, you have to look into them.
    If nothing else, you can report they aren't true.
  7. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Always chase them, but don't always run hard until absolutely necessary.
  8. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    Yeah, that seems like a pretty easy one to check. Like, one phone call. So little is lost by checking that one out.
  9. nibs price

    nibs price Member

    It depends on the target of the rumors as much as the source. If the rumor is about an elected official skimming funds to fund a coke habit, that would certainly merit a bit of digging. If it is a salacious rumor about someone who is only marginally a public figure, ignore it and move on. Or, if it is more in the realm of conspiracy theory (i.e. the WTC inside job crap), do what Popular Mechanics did if you feel so moved.
  10. TheMethod

    TheMethod Member

    I'd say almost every rumor is worth a phone call, even if it's something really minor, because sometimes that phone call will produce some kind of helpful information (such as, it isn't true that the Ed Quickfoot is transferring in, but another receiver is).

    On the bigger stuff, even if it's something you know isn't true, it's good to have people on the record saying it isn't, in case at some point it is. For example, you hear a rumor that the coach at your school is leaving to coach his alma mater. You know he isn't -- at least you know he'll say he isn't -- but there is value in being able to write, "John Dickhouse said he has no interest in leaving Dillweed Tech. 'I plan on being here until I retire,' Dickhouse said."

    That's probably an obvious example, but the point is, there is great value in having people on record with anything.
  11. writing irish

    writing irish Active Member

    Not sure how to handle rumors- so much of it depends on context. I do, however, find it useful to freak out on other journalists whose approach to rumors differs from mine. That's my main guideline.
  12. Always.

    What drives me up a wall is when some beat writers immediately throw message board rumors up on their blog.

    You deal with this situation constantly in college athletics.
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