What’s a rumor? Usually something spicy. Juicy. We love to hear them and share them.
The official definition, from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is
1: talk or opinion widely disseminated with no discernible source
2: a statement or report current without known authority for its truth
3: archaic : talk or report of a notable person or event
By now you’ve probably figured out I’ve got a rumor! And it is one I am checking on because, if true, there’s a story here.
Now the trick to turning a rumor into a story is to first, decide if there is a story there and second, would writing this story benefit the public? Yeah, just running with it cause it is interesting isn’t enough for me; sorry.
This rumor came to me by way of a very casual acquaintance and involves an attempt to ban books in a small school district. I’m calling this a rumor because it was passed along as part of a conversation where we were chewing the fat and generally complaining about what is wrong with education today.
Now how can I check on this to see if it is true? Well first off, I tend to trust the source. I see no vendetta…no reason for this to be false. I do know, from past experience, that often frustration leads to folks wanting to believe half-truths, which are repeated – but this does not seem to be the case.
So I know who the major players are and I know the location. Once I make a few calls to verify, I’ll move on.
Just a warning about the dangers of rumors. A rumor repeated publicly can not only destroy lives, as in livelihoods – it can also cause loss of life, as in suicide. For many people, loss of reputation is loss of self-esteem and loss of reason to go on with life.
When I was working at KOVR we got a call from a woman who claimed a local high school vice-principal had inappropriately touched her granddaughter. Great story – but, hey this could have been a looney-toon or someone with a grudge. Reporter Craig Prosser sat on the story as it progressed through the investigation until the cops actually charged the VP. To act sooner might have ruined a life of an innocent man had the charge been false.
I’ll let ya know how this goes if it takes wing and flies.
Update: hey, before even publishing this I gave a heads up to my source and she took my advice and will be meeting w/her local news agency today. More next week.
Updated on October 19, 2008
The English teachers at the small Central Valley high school met with their local newspaper editor this past Friday. The issue: a parent complaining that Bless Me, Ultima (by Rudolfo Anaya) had obscene language and was inappropriate for students to read. A quick web search shows that this book is on the American Library Association’s 100 most challenged books.
Now the teachers who are upset about this attempt to ban the book did not require the dissenter’s child to read it – they offered alternatives, realizing that some books may not be appropriate to every child.
No – what they are upset about is (1) their superintendent formed a secret committee to study whether to ban it and (2) he admits he hasn’t even read the book – he apparently is relying solely on what the complaining parent alleges.
Now let’s hear it for the local newspaper editor, who is reading the book this weekend to see what all the hoopla is about.
The school board meeting is this week and the teachers intend to be there to support their side.
Stay tuned to see how this develops.