Sunday, June 20, 2004

Rumor Uncontrol 

Although the following story appeared last week it is worth a first or second read. The article investigates the course of two rumors on the Internet -- one had to do with the intern who supposedly had an affair with Kerry but didn't and the other focused on rumors of Reagan's impending death, which were true.

What the story makes clear is that the Internet has become the primary pipeline for rumors, and if you don't control them at the Internet level, you won't control them once they hit traditional media. That said, there are only certain kinds of rumors that hit the Internet heavily. They are usually associated with high-profile people, places and organizations.

However, one never knows when an organization might be thrust into the limelight. A client went from a quiet existence to international criticism in hours, and the Internet was filled with false rumors about the organization that found their way into print. We were able to warn off some journalists but others plunged ahead with irresponsible suppositions that had no basis in reality or fact.

The worst part of such rumors is that some people will believe them. And, it is often people who should know better. But, humans are not given to checking facts before they speak. If they did, they would speak less or more carefully than they do.

During the Internet Bubble, one company after another was plagued with rumors from people shorting their stocks. It was difficult to control. It is tougher now. The media are more attuned to the Internet and rumors floating through it. Reporters are quicker to pick up the phone and ask rather than using common sense. However, asking is better than running with the story and not asking -- which some have done.

Keep your eye on the Internet. You don't know the day or the hour when things can go bad.


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