Did you hear the story about the local woman who reportedly was missing? Everyone was talking about it. No one had seen Sonya for a few days and then some nasty rumors started circulating that made it hard for me to sleep some nights. Sonya enjoys spending most of her days on the streets of Wheeling. That is her choice and is among the freedoms this country allows each of us to enjoy.
When the rumors of Sonya's demise grew and grew until the city police department got involved, there was a bit of a frenzy among the media as to what really happened to Sonya. Forget the wicked rumors, Sonya is alive and well. She had been staying with a relative, thankfully, during this awful heat wave.
While I tip my hat to those who showed concern for a fellow citizen, I have to wonder just how some rumors get started. If you have personally ever been the target of rumors, hearsay or just plain old gossip, you know how deep it can hurt.
Is it simply in our DNA as humans to talk about one another or is it something we learn through example or experience? When I was growing up, I don't remember my parents talking about other adults in a way that made me think poorly of anyone. Maybe they shied away from gossip because their own large family gave others plenty of fodder to chew on.
Some people believe online social networking is the misinformation highway and sometimes I have to agree. Too often someone will hear just a part of a conversation, jump to conclusions and set the gossip groupies off and typing on Facebook, their cell phones or other instant communication.
Gossip is the ultimate form of bullying and it happens everywhere -not just in the school yard.
Recently, Wheeling's new top cop - Chief Robert Shawn Schwertfeger - invited the local media to a face-to-face meeting to set some parameters and develop an understanding between his department and the print and broadcast news hounds.
While the chief heard our frustrations about not being able to obtain more information about crimes that occur in the Friendly City, we heard his side of the story as well. He explained that many cases are "on-going," thus few details are provided for public consumption. The media, on the other hand, argued that more information may serve to calm a nervous public or even help solve a case.
The police chief is new to our city and to the workings of our community, and he showed great initiative meeting with those in the media. And many of us spoke up about the need to keep the public informed so that rumors and gossip are quashed before they get out of hand. No one likes wild goose chases nor do people enjoy being the target of untruths.
We will never eradicate gossip, but maybe, just maybe, we will be able to report the facts and just the facts that will let us all sleep better at night.
Heather Ziegler can be reached at email@example.com.