Letter from the Editor: Anti-Rumor Mill

Matthew Korb ’14, Editor-in-Chief

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“I’d heard you were dead.”
“I heard you wear a red lace corset,” I said matter-of-factly. “But I don’t believe every bit of nonsense that gets rumored about.”

– Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear

Rumors are an ugly thing. We hear them. We start them. And sometimes, knowingly or unknowingly, we even help transmit spread them.

When I started working for the newspaper, I never really paid rumors much mind. I always thought them just idle chatter, something that can do only minor damage before fading away. So I never really used them when I was looking for a story, instead I preferred to stick to the tried-and-true sources of information: Wikipedia and whatever I could glean from the Admissions’ website.

The longer I worked on the newspaper, however, and the longer I spent at Dickinson, the more I saw how damaging and yet useful a rumor could be.

This week, as way of example, I heard the rumor that Dr. Nancy Roseman, our newest college president, was looking to remove organized sports of campus from the college. It was a stupid rumor and everyone who told me so didn’t cling too doggedly to it, but they still passed it on, nonetheless.

And after thinking about the rumor and others like it for a time, I concluded it brought up two worrying thoughts:

The first, that students knew so little about our president (That, and how little college administration actually works) that they would at least somewhat believe something that they could have guessed was a fib and would dwell on such a remark.

The second, that students were so starved for information on the administration of organized sports on campus that they were starting to come up with their own bits of news.

When I was starting out in college, the newspaper never touched rumors. Ours was the paper of record, the paper that swallowed up the old news and locked it away in ink, to be poured over by others ten or a hundred years from now. Rumors were too new, too mercurial. They were an annoyance to track down and peel apart, to find the grain of truth (if any even existed) underneath all the fiction.

But now, this week, the newspaper is entering into the business of rumors. Not in making them, but in acknowledging them and disproving them.

People adore information. They need information. Whether on a conscious or unconscious level, we crave to know what is happening on the other side of the hill. And we can get that information from either a reliable source or an unreliable source, from The New York Times or from your roommate Chet.

I would rather take rumors and test them with facts in the newspaper than let them continue floating around. Our business is informing, and if that means tackling every silly rumor that crosses our desk, so be it.

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