Summary – “Rumor Has It”
In John Dooley and Helio Fred Garcia’s “Rumor Has It: Understanding and Managing Rumors,” the need to address and deal with the circulation of rumors is discussed. The authors note the challenging nature of addressing rumors due to their fluidity and momentum, making it hard to figure out where they started or what they started as. Psychological findings from Allport and Postman are used to support the assertion that rumors change as they are spread, leveling out details and assimilating them into the collective. The key to preventing rumors, according to the authors, is to recognize when clarification needs to be given on information to prevent conjecture from spreading. Allport and Postman define rumor as a belief unsupported by evidence, which is what needs to be prevented. The authors say that, in order to control a rumor, one must get in early to control the information – the sooner information is provided, the fewer blanks need to be filled in by the other parties. The Allport and Postman model is used to note the spread of rumors across various periods of time (45 minutes, six hours, three days, two weeks), which can be used to control information . The authors conclude that, with this model, organizations can successfully control rumors in order to prevent untoward damage to their reputation.
Summary – “How Rumors Help Us Make Sense of an Uncertain World”
In “How Rumors Help Us Make Sense of an Uncertain World,” Nicholas DiFonzo discusses the nature of rumors, and how they seem to come from a place of needing to understand the unknown. DiFonzo days that rumors help us make sense of events when we do not fully understand them. The author likens it to the increase in conspiracy theories that occurred around 9/11, like inside involvement from Muslim-Americans or Israeli influence, as a way to explain away something that frightens us. DiFonzo also notes that we often pass off rumor as fact, only later becoming more uncertain of its veracity. This often occurs as the result of sensationalist news media that speculates, leading us to believe that information is real. DiFonzo notes that verification is one of the most important attributes of rumors; it is necessary to find out if they are true before passing them off as fact. The attacks of Muslim-Americans after 9/11 and the subsequent Islamophobia supports the need for verification. DiFonzo concludes by saying that rumors are our way of understanding the world around us when it does not make sense, which can lead to us leaning toward easy answers rather than correct ones.
Looking at both the Dooley/Garcia and DiFonzo texts, there are absolutely similarities to both. Both address the nature of rumor and how it can quickly run afoul of the truth – rumors in the media are mentioned in both instances, such as the 9/11 headlines in the DiFonzo text giving unsubstantiated 9/11 rumors, as well as the Doorley/Garcia text’s overall concern about organizations being attacked by rumors in the media. Both discuss how rumors are essentially stemming from a desire for information that is not being given; the media makes claims and speculates about an organization’s problems, or people scramble to find explanations for things they cannot explain. Rumors morph and change depending on how many people they have gone through, how much time has passed, etc., and these are points covered in both texts. Both essays also cover how verification and early dissemination of information can help to curb rumors – it is best to get the information out there as fast as you can to make sure people do not think the wrong thing.
Despite these similarities, there are also fundamental differences in the texts as well. Dooley and Garcia look at rumors from the perspective of preventing them, and finding strategies to make sure they do not damage a company. Looking specifically at corporate rumors in the media, Dooley and Garcia’s audience is corporations looking for strategies to use when controlling information and public perception. Specific strategies are mentioned (such as the Allport and Postman model) to determine the extent of damage control needed. In the DiFonzo text, rumors are approached from a sociological perspective – why rumors are spread, and what that says about human nature. Dooley and Garcia believe that rumors can be controlled through mathematics (combining ambiguity and the rumor’s importance), wheras DiFonzo does not purport to have a solution. DiFonzo’s arguments are that, even when there a simpler explanation (bin Laden having been behind 9/11), people will shape their understanding to fit their established worldview. This is why, as he says, Pakistanis believe the Israelis and America were behind 9/11 – they wish to believe the out-group has done it. This is a much different approach to Dooley and Garcia, who see rumor as a race against time to disseminate information before damage is done to a company. To that end, between these two authors a widespread and comprehensive look at rumors is reached.
DiFonzo, Nicholas. The Watercooler Effect. Avery, 2008. Print.
Doorley, John, and Helio Fred Garcia. “Rumor Has It: Understanding and Managing Rumors.”
The Strategist (Summer 2007): 27-32.