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ERIC Number: ED309431
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1989-Aug
Pages: 25
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Debunking the Mutilated Boy: A Study of Newspaper Editors and an Inflammatory Rumor.
Brown, Lee
A study examined how newspaper editors resolve issues relating to rumors--that is whether to cover stories which may turn out to be false. The "mutilated boy" rumor was chosen for its antiquity and endurance, its powerful theme, and its ability to create intense anxiety in a community. Thirty-three of the 86 editors who responded to the questionnaires reported encounters with the "mutilated boy" or similar rumors. The encounter questionnaire revealed that 14 of the 20 editors who said their newspaper printed something about the rumor also reported their readers stopped calling and the rumors quickly died. Fifty-one of the 53 editors who responded to the hypothetical questionnaire said they would assign someone to check out the rumor if their papers started receiving calls from readers. Most agreed ignoring rumors generally is best but that they should be debunked if they create widespread hysteria. Those who favored printing a debunking story about the rumors favored it for the same reason other editors opposed printing it: responsibility to the community. No evidence was found to suggest that the press contributed to the spread of rumors. The summative picture is one of concerned editors, even though there are few written policies to guide their decisions. The fear of making matters worse is evident in the steadfast presence of the minority of editors who said they did not or would not print such a story. (Three tables of data and 23 notes are included.) (MG)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A