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Try to separate facts from rumors

September 2, 2012
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

There's an old game many of us played in our youth. It was one of those things we would do before there were loads of video games and home computers to keep us occupied, in a time where it was common for kids to just run around outside to play.

All you needed to play was a group of people, your ears and the ability to think up a few words.

It was simply known by many of us as "Telephone."

It was both a game to provide us with some fun, but also teach us a lesson.

Those playing would sit in a circle. One person would think up a saying, word or sentence and whisper it to the person next to them.

That person would then tell the next person what they heard, and so on and so on.

When it finally got back to the original person, the message usually had gotten changed around quite a bit and was no longer the original saying.

As a kid, it was quite fun and interesting to play. I remember always finding it interesting to see how the phrase would change because a few people had misheard or not quite understood what was being said.

Simply by speaking with a lower whisper or a different distance from the person next to you, the meaning or words could sound different.

I don't know if it's something kids play these days, but at the same time it's a game we should all remember and keep in mind from time to time.

There are many events taking place in all of our communities.

Whether it's the construction of a new facility, what is said during a political campaign, the activities taking place during a town festival or even the possibility of a new business, there is something always happening and there are things being said about it.

It's nothing new.

It often is known as town gossip. Someone hears half of a conversation, or reads only a little bit of information and goes off to tell their best friend. That friend tells another friend and eventually the entire town knows, or at least thinks they do. The only problem is, none of them really have the full picture.

With the Internet, it is even easier for all those things to be spread around.

What used to take weeks to spread throughout a community can take mere seconds thanks to email, instant messaging, social media and message boards.

And, because of this same technology, the gossip and rumors don't stay just within one community.

I often take a little bit of time to poke around some of these sites in addition to the traditional methods of journalism.

It often gives a window into some of what is going on in our area; what people are talking about.

The problem I notice, is there often can be a variety of things being said about a single topic, with many people contributing to a single conversation and just as many views or "facts" about what is really going on.

We have to remember, you can put pretty much anything you want to online, even if it's not true, and often you can do it anonymously.

Instead of taking the time to find out for ourselves what is really going on, we take what we read as gospel and believe it, often getting upset if it's not what we want to hear and thinking worse of others.

People who aren't even involved in an issue, for example, often get blamed because someone automatically assumes they have a hand in it because of their position in the community.

Every story has at least two sides to it. Every person involved in its crafting has their own view of the action and tells that view differently.

It's not always possible to get all of the information together and get the entire picture.

Just like when we were kids and we saw how that one little word or message could get turned around as it went from person to person, "facts" can sometimes get changed around when we only listen to the gossip and rumors.

That's why it's important for everyone to keep an open mind and be willing to listen to more than just the one side we initially hear.

Become more familiar with the events of your hometown. Attend a governmental meeting, ask questions, read the newspaper, or get involved in some of these community groups.

Learn what is going on, who is involved, why things can or cannot be done.

And, most importantly, listen carefully.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

 
 

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