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  • America Votes

    Election news from across the Knight Ridder network and the Web

    Wednesday, February 18, 2004

    Faster than a speeding rumor 

    When do you report on a rumor? The Drudge Report - a right-wing Web site that bills itself as 80 percent accurate - last week spoke of an alleged affair between John Kerry and an intern. There was no evidence, no attribution. Nonetheless, it quickly snowballed. Kerry denied it an the Imus in the Morning radio show, which many took as even further evidence that it must be true.

    Many newspapers were hesitant to report on it but they still felt a nagging reminder of 1998. Matt Drudge was right then, there really was a complicit intern, and she really did have a soiled dress. Drudge had gone where the mainstream media had feared to tread, and everyone followed. Suddenly, it seemed old-fashioned to believe that a rumor should be vetted as true prior to dissemination.

    Six days later the Kerry rumor blew over, and now that the frenzy has subsided, it's possible to look back and track the rumor as it moved like a virus through the media bloodstream.

    And the speed of dissemination has quickened during the last decade. When Bill Clinton ran in 1992, his first accusers were the supermarket tabloids (especially the Star, which paid Gennifer Flowers for her allegation). Today, there is no respite from infotainment; Web-driven rumors can flash on your Blackberry within seconds.

    -Ellen Dunkel, Knight Ridder Digital

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 11:10 AM



    This blog is compiled and edited by:

  • Ellen Dunkel, producer for Knight Ridder Digital's National Desk.
  • John Murrell, minister of information for SiliconValley.com.

  •  Latest posts
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       •  Woman says Kerry relationship rumors are false
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    Over the course of the campaign, this blog was titled Hot Off The Trail and featured entries from Knight Ridder reporters.

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