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Speer: Forget rumors, give me the facts

October 12, 2012
Bill Speer - Editor/Publisher , The Alpena News

The other day at breakfast a friend asked me whether I had heard the latest rumor on (readers can fill in the blank here). Another friend chimed in, "I haven't heard that one, but did you hear about (readers again can fill in the blank here.)"

Earlier this week I moderated a forum on government for the Leadership Education for Action and Development program at Alpena Community College. In a roundtable discussion of attendees, one asked about the rumor of (readers again can fill in the blank here)."

One of my all-time favorite plays is Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera, "Jesus Christ Superstar." In it, one of the songs - "What's the buzz" - has the apostles asking Jesus "What's the buzz, tell me what's a-happening" sung over and over again.

Lately, those lyrics have been running through my head. If you want "the buzz," I guess the streets are as good as anywhere to get the latest. If you want the truth, the facts and information you "can hang your hat on," then this newspaper is where you want to turn.

I'm sorry, but you aren't going to read about any rumors here on the newspaper pages. I'm quite content with that, especially this week as we conclude National Newspaper Week across the country. Newspapers deal with facts and only facts. That is why we are, always have been, and always will be the most trusted source of news and information in the region.

Are there times when rumors indeed come true? Absolutely. And each time that happens I cringe a bit as to why our reporting staff wasn't able to confirm the information sooner. Chalk one up to the street.

Yet each time that might happen, I also can think of many others that never materialized and were like vapor evaporating into thin air. How foolish would we have looked to have published those?

Recently a local blogger and active participant on the social media scene sent me "information" about the Alpena recall effort. I say information, for some of the information involved me, and my role as a community leader and publisher of the newspaper right after the Alpena city manager vote, and some of the many people who visited with me the next day.

While it amazes me how I can be drawn into this public debate on recall efforts, I sit back and smile (although certainly not a Joe Biden smirky smile). The "information" talks about a visit of one person to my office, yet in reality that day I visited with several. The smile is simply because those who spread this information pretend to know all that happened with the one visit, yet I think to myself "if they only knew all that was shared that day by those who visited."

But here is the best part. In the preface to me via the email the author writes this of the information being shared: "which I think is largely true based on the person who told me."

Let me assure readers this morning that nowhere in the news stories on the pages of today's newspaper, or yesterday's newspaper, or any newspaper to be printed in the future, will you ever read about things we think are true. There is no room for speculation and innuendo on the pages of the newspaper.

Between the upcoming election and speculation over economic development efforts locally, the rumor mill is running on overdrive right now.

That's fine, as many people thrive on that.

Just remember, however, that the rumor mill is akin to a tread mill - often you do a lot of running on it but in the end, go nowhere."

As for me, I prefer the Sgt. Joe Friday approach from the popular police television drama "Dragnet."

"All we want are the facts. Just the facts, ma'am."



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