It seems to be a common, unwritten rule that if thereís a group of people living in a given space, sooner or later rumors about each other and about community happenings will start to fly.
I have mixed feeling about the rumor mill. On one hand, the sources I have that are more in tune with some of the whisperings around Goshen County can be very helpful. I hear about events and incidents from my friends and acquaintances throughout the community I may otherwise never have found on my own. Itís like having a hyper-local, free extra-net.
On the other hand, when rumors fly about a given incident like so many angry bees, it doesnít make my job any easier. In situations like that, I see it as my job to wade through whatever words happen to be floating around and find the truth.
Itís an older piece of news, but I can think of a prime example in the bomb scare, which I wrote about for the June 1, 2012, edition.
Hereís what happened as I know it: Torrington police officers responded to a possible bomb near Pioneer Park that Sunday morning. It was a small cylindrical object covered in electrical tape, and Torrington police covered it in a bomb blanket and called in the bomb squad from Cheyenne. The bomb squad used a robot to break the reportedly bomb-like object that turned out to be a piece of foam.
We at the Telegram heard about some sort of incident at Pioneer Park through our Facebook page, and not knowing exactly what happened, I checked into it with Police Chief Billy Janes. In the time I started looking into the case to the time I posted a breaking news update on our website, I heard the following rumors circulating, in no particular order: There was a dead body found down by the park. There was a dead body with a bomb down by the park. There was a bomb in the park.
The last one turned out to be half-right.
In my line of work, itís almost never safe to make assumptions, whether they be about something as serious as facts about a crime or an election to more light-hearted, trivial matters like if the Cleveland Indians actually won a game or two.
In the case of something like the bomb scare I mentioned, I donít want to see people get upset over a tragedy that may not (and did not, in this case) exist and an apparent threat that, thanks to local and Laramie County law enforcement, was under control. I acknowledge, however, that Iíd probably have the same unsettled reaction anyone else did but for the fact that I had a job to do in gathering information. Even then, Iím certainly not immune to emotion or natural reactions. I was concerned about the bomb call, hoping everyone was OK and no damage was done. When I was talking to Chief Janes about the case, I ended up laughing in relief, not necessarily amusement, when I learned all that happened.
Like I said, Iím glad everyoneís all right, and Iím glad there was no physical damage. The rumor mill will churn onward, with or without me, for better or for worse. Thereís something to be said for a community with such interest in itself to regularly discuss events that stir up residents one way another. I very much appreciate the trust community members display when they come to me personally to let me know about goings-on.
Now, what will be next to come across the grapevine? Only time will tell, dear readers.
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