Editorial: Rumors Are a Dangerous Thing
By Patrick Lynn
Word spread fairly quickly on Saturday, and how could it not: Cedar & Easlan- an intersection highly visible from busy Hoover Avenue- was blocked off to traffic, police tape surrounded the entire property and hordes of police vehicles lined both sides of the street. The home of a sheriff’s deputy was now a crime scene.
Official confirmation of that fact alone took several hours, and confirmation on even the most minute details took hours longer. We weren’t able to report much. It frustrated some of our readers but there was nothing we could do- at least not until there was a social media frenzy speculating on the nature of what police referred to simply as “an incident”.
Accusations on Facebook ranged from a love triangle gone wrong to a murder- suicide. Some readers had the nerve to post names, addresses and phone numbers of supposed deputies- and wives- involved. More brazen individuals even posted names of who they believed the suspect to be, complete with criminal history of said individuals.
None of it was confirmed information, and in our book that makes it untrue.
City-Times staff worked overtime on Saturday, calling in off-duty employees to control the explosion of rumors and slanderous allegations on our social media sites. We knew all it would take was one individual to believe a third- party post on our Facebook page, and soon it could be attributed to us.
It wasn’t surprising such rumors were posted in the anonymity of our comment section: people are big in the shadows. But the incendiary accusations, vulgarity, and “I heard from my brother’s uncle’s best friend” statements being passed as facts- where your identity and photo is there for God and everyone else to see- posted to the public Facebook page was simply shocking to this staff.
We aren’t in the guessing business. We also aren’t in the business of prying into the lives of private citizens: the deputy involved worked in undercover drug investigation, therefore we won’t be publishing his photo or a photo of his home because there’s often too large a wall between zealous journalism and decency.
As of 7 AM Monday, the identity of the deceased suspect involved in the home invasion has not been released. Until it’s been confirmed, we aren’t taking any guesses.