Vail Daily editorial: You can help stop rumor-spreading
May 16, 2017
There's a long tradition of "barstool tips" in the news business.
As the name implies, a barstool tip is often an alcohol-fueled flight of fancy, like giant, mutant marmots living in the bowels of the Eagle Mine between Minturn and Red Cliff.
A barstool tip is usually the stuff of giggles the next day, but a more legitimate question is, "Where does this stuff come from?"
The answer is usually an eye roll and a shoulder shrug.
Weird, wild rumors are as old as humanity itself, but the advent of the internet has enabled rumor-spinners to get the attention of far more people.
A couple of years ago, Colorado Parks and Wildlife had to work hard to snuff out an internet brush fire of an emailed barstool tip — state wildlife officials were on the way to euthanize the moose and their offspring that make Vail their home in the summer.
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There was nothing to the rumor, but there was plenty of email chatter about nasty state wildlife guys who were ready to descend upon Vail to kill precious moose.
Those rumors eventually led to a news story so wildlife officials could state, on the record, that the moose in Vail would be left alone.
Social media has only intensified barstool tip syndrome.
Area Facebook users have probably seen in the past couple of weeks various questions and rumors about the scrawled threats on the floor of Battle Mountain High School.
The scrawler is still unknown. What's certain, though, is that Eagle County Schools and the Eagle County Sheriff's Office took those threats very seriously. They worked diligently to keep the school and its students as safe as humanly possible.
There's a thorough manual of do's and don'ts regarding threats of school violence, developed through hard, often-tragic experience. District and law enforcement officials used that history and experience, along with their own knowledge of the community, to develop a strategy to protect the school from what had to be presumed to be a legitimate threat.
From what school and law enforcement officials told the public, they did a thorough job of investigation and beefing up security.
Details of those strategies aren't always made public, in no small part because no one wants a potential bad actor to know what the good guys know.
But the information given to the public hasn't stopped rumors, and rumors of rumors, from spreading across the valley.
This newspaper didn't learn about any secret plans or hidden information. But rumors still ran rampant, as they will, and a subsequent news story attempted to put those rumors to rest. That's part of the job of a community newspaper.
There's no way to stop rumors. It's uncertain who first said this, but it's true that, "A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth puts its boots on."
But we all can help cut down on the spread of rumors. If you hear something outlandish about, well, anything from school security to plans for Vail Mountain, ask a few questions — preferably of people who might actually know something on the topic — before hitting that share button.
We don't need any more giant, mutant marmots in the Eagle Mine.
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