The new rumor mill


Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 11:57 p.m.
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The Associated Press
"If you want to talk about a business model that is designed to manufacture mischief in large volume, that would be it."
Ralph Whitehead, University of Massachusetts journalism professor.
When is rumor news? When it's reported on the Internet. After the web-based Insight reported that Hillary Clinton's campaign was going to accuse presidential rival Barack Obama of attending an Islamic religious school in Indonesia at the age of 16, it set off a mainstream media frenzy that lasted several days. And never mind that there was absolutely no evidence to back it up. Asked about the report later, Insight's editor not only refused to name its sources, but would not even identify the reporter of the story. Ernest Hemingway once wrote that a rumor spread before breakfast could become truth before dinner. In the age of the Internet, rumor can become "truth" in the push of a "send" button. Americans who depend on the 'net for their news should keep that in mind.

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