Speculation about why Alpena's Fourth of July fireworks were not up to expectations is still going strong. We have heard a variety rumors about the fireworks, the most ridiculous being, "The Chamber must have stolen some of the money because there is no way that was $20,000," and the most common being, "a new company must have been hired this year." Neither of these statements are accurate. It is disappointing that less than a dozen people called to find out the truth, yet many more than that are sharing their version of what happened. (Just a side note, I thought the fireworks were great! Especially the finale. And I appreciated them even more when I thought about the people who didn't get to see fireworks at all because they were serving in the military overseas).
What impact will this speculation have on next year's fireworks fundraising? The best thing that could happen is it has a positive impact people donate more to have a better show. The worst thing that could happen is people listen to the speculation, don't bother finding out the truth, and then don't donate because they are still disappointed with last year's show.
This column is not about the fireworks but is instead about the impact rumors, speculation and failure to find out the truth can have on a community. The fireworks are just one recent example that is close to home for me. I'm certain you can think of other recent examples. Rumors can ruin progress in a community. How? Rumors divide people and keep them from moving forward together, in the same direction, toward the same goal.
Unity is how things get done. Enough people pulling in the same direction is how actions result in success. Projects much bigger than the fireworks can be negatively impacted when the relentless speculation and rumors start. We have examples of that right here in Northeast Michigan. People and businesses can be turned off by a community that doesn't bother to find out the truth. Speculation and rumors don't create economic growth.
So who is responsible for finding out the truth? Who is responsible for stopping speculation? We all are. We receive a lot of phone calls at the Chamber. Most are just simple questions but sometimes we take complaints. More often than not the complaints are grounded in some type of un-truth. We have greater respect for the person who calls to seek the truth about something before deciding if they have a complaint or not. We are also much more receptive to complaints grounded in truth. It makes the concern much more valid. What's frustrating though is that for every person who seeks the truth, there are undoubtedly many more not bothering to seek the truth but are still verbalizing their possibly inaccurate concern.
What's even more frustrating is that the solutions to stopping rumors are actually fairly simple. You can ask questions. We prefer that people ask questions, even if it means an increase in phone calls or emails and I'd guess that other organizations feel the same way. Think twice about repeating something you aren't positive is accurate. I doubt many people would purposefully stand in the way of progress in their community. Yet, each time you pass along something you aren't sure is true, you are doing just that. Finally, always have the courage to stand behind what you say. Anonymous blogging, letters, comments, etc., are not worthy of your attention. There is zero value to comments made anonymously. If we cannot stand behind what we say, then we should not say it.
If you want to know the truth just ask. Find the party that has the answer and seek the truth from them. If you are unwilling to seek the truth, then consider not saying anything at all, and consider what or who might be hurt if you do share what might not be accurate. By doing so you are helping your community instead of potentially hurting your community. You are showing your commitment and support of a unified approach to progress. And as one final note, please, if you want to know the truth about this year's fireworks, just ask.