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Miles From Accurate: When A Rumor Is More Than Just A Rumor

As you probably know by now, rumors took off on Twitter Saturday suggesting that LSU football coach Les Miles would resign on Monday due to an inappropriate relationship with a college student.  Yesterday came and went without a press conference.  In fact, LSU officials let word be known as early as Saturday evening that the rumors were just that — rumors.

Ah, but sometimes rumors are more than just rumors.  Sometimes they’re assassinations of someone’s character.

The rumor regarding Miles started on an Alabama messageboard.  A journalism student at Western Kentucky University then tweeted the rumor:

 

mcgaw tweet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Twitter exploded, McGaw responded by making it clear he didn’t start the rumor… he was just passing it along via Twitter (which is akin to pouring accelerant on a flame).  In an interview with Jason Kirk of SBNation yesterday, McGaw gave his WKU professors credit for helping to shape his ethics:

 

“The main lesson I learned out of any of this… One lesson was, I’m grateful for my broadcast professors teaching me ethics.  I used the world allegedly.  I used the word rumors.  Making sure that, hey, I’m not just throwing this out of the blue.  I’m making sure that I’m not accusing anybody of doing something.  I’m just mentioning this is something people are speaking of.

But the main lesson I’ve learned, and I do this all the time, but I should’ve started out with, ‘According to some message board…’  And then give the rumor.  I feel like that would’ve cleared up a lot of stuff instead of having all these people blow me up and me being able to finally tweet out, ‘Hey, this is where I got this info from.’…

And, yeah, I know you’re not supposed to report rumors, but I wasn’t even acting as a journalist when I mentioned that.  I mentioned the word rumor.  I wasn’t acting as a journalist.”

 

A few thoughts:

 

1.  With the internet, everyone is now a journalist.  You, me, the guy the down the street, everyone.  Twitter is so immediate that conclusions on serious subjects are now reached 140 characters at a time.  Not to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist, but it’s never been easier for people, companies, organizations, or governments to intentionally spread misinformation than it is today.  And with so many people — many of them anonymous — just dying to criticize or mock others or share rumors in 140 characters or less we are also being desensitized as a society.  Laugh now, but Twitter is going to be bad news in the long run for our culture and our democracy.  (That said, be sure to follow us at twitter.com/mrsec!)

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