Saturday, February 28, 2009

We rumor, you decide

Since this was apparently deemed worthy of a chunk of 1A real estate, let's enjoy its entire seven-graf glory:

Romulus Mayor Alan Lambert says he asked this week for a chance for himself and his chief of staff, a big fan, to meet actor George Clooney, who is filming a new movie, "Up in the Air," at Metro Airport.

It didn't work out, Lambert said. After that, the story gets weird. (Do tell)

Rumors were flying that Lambert was angry that he didn't get to meet Clooney and asked his city's cops to pull the star over and ticket him if they got the chance. (And?)

The mayor, in fact, took calls from an assistant Wayne County prosecutor and an official with the state's economic development agency, wanting to make sure he wasn't doing something to give Michigan's burgeoning film industry a black eye. (And?)

"As far as I'm concerned, this is all unfounded," Lambert said.

Romulus Police Chief Michael St. Andre backs up his boss.

"We never interfered with the filming," he said.
(And when did that get into the equation?) "This was blown way out of proportion."

Does it seem to anyone else that we're at a crossroads of mutually exclusive conditions here?

1) There's no reason to believe the rumors (in which case, why was the story written, let alone fronted?)
2) There's some reason to believe the rumors (in which case, aren't you obliged to offer at least a tiny bit of evidence?)

In a way, this recalls the Times's blunder with the McCain-Iseman story last year. The Times made a big deal out of an eight-year-old rumor but didn't set to rest the question it raised: If people were "convinced" of something eight years ago, are they still convinced today? If not, why not, and why do we think it still looks like a story?

Here, we apparently know how far the flying rumors got and who "in fact"* did something to check into them. Seems like that should entail a few more questions: Where did the rumors appear? What prompted the prosecutor's office to call the mayor? What does the official who made the call think now? How about the economic development folks?

Rumors are a cue to start reporting; they aren't a cue to start writing. What we have on the front page here is gossip -- the very sort of material we have this quaint thing called an "editing process" to distinguish ourselves from. If a newspaper can't do anything with rumors beyond "we speculate, you decide," then it's basically just a blog that gets ink on the carpet.

* Ahem. If it isn't a "fact," what is it doing in a news story in the first place?


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Oh, c'mon. You're missing the point. This is only an excuse to put George Clooney on page 1.

11:59 AM, February 28, 2009  
Blogger fev said...

Yeah, I get cranky when I'm procrastinating. Sorry.

10:09 PM, February 28, 2009  

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