It is time to get serious about addressing rumors. Let’s define a rumor, shed light on the effect of rumors, and create a method for getting accurate information.
RumorsMy edition of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language gives this definition of the noun “rumor”: “1. A story or statement in general circulation without confirmation or certainty as to facts; 2. Gossip; hearsay; 3. a continuous, confused noise, clamor, din.”
There is a surprising amount of research devoted to the study of rumors. A 1944 study described three basic characteristics that apply to rumors:
- They’re transmitted by word of mouth;
- They provide “information” about a “person, happening, or condition” and
- They express and gratify “the emotional needs of the community” v. an individual need. This distinguishes rumors (community interest) from gossip (individual or trivial interest.
More recent research on rumors has also theorized that rumor-mongering is simply an attempt to deal with anxieties and uncertainties by generating and passing stories that can explain a situation. It was also found that when anxieties are intense, rumormongers are less likely to monitor the logic or plausibility of what they pass on to others.
Another observation on rumors holds that when parties are engaged in intense conflict, there is typically little direct communication between the parties; however, there are likely to be numerous individuals who are informally talking with one another about the conflict. Any gap in information may be filled by rumor or misrepresentation.
The Effect of RumorsRumors often contain seriously inaccurate information. In conflict situations, this inaccurate information is likely to make a conflict more destructive. It also tends to erode the parties mutual trust. This makes it more difficult for the parties to move towards a resolution of the conflict. A proliferation of negative rumors increases the chances that the parties will develop worst-case images of one another, which in turn may result in the individuals becoming entrenched and unwavering in their positions.
Therefore, rumors can serve to escalate conflict and make it much more difficult to find a resolution.
The Rumor HotlineIn order to bring rumors to light and respond with accurate information, the City has established a rumor hotline. The rumor hotline number is: 678-4182 extension 231.
This number goes to the desk and answering machine for the Human Resources Director, Sandra Davis. Anyone may call the line to report a rumor. The line is available during business hours and during non-business hours by simply leaving a message. All rumors may be reported anonymously.
City staff will research the rumor and will report the results in this column. The records researched will be open for review at City Hall.
I believe it is our civic duty for the good of the entire community - the duty of each of us as a Lake Walean - to report rumors and bring them to light. We now have an opportunity to do so.