Move along all gossips and phonies

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 21, 2004

A few weeks back I wrote a column about the Journalist's Creed.

In it, I said that an elected official had questioned my ethics. I've had several elected officials question me now on whether they were the one to insult me.

Each time, I've laughed and told them they were not.

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Ironically, the very person I referred to has yet to approach me about it.

I decided this week to get on another high horse about something that really grates on my nerves.

This week, I'll address gossips and phonies.

You know the type, they are sugar and spice to your face, but the moment your back is turned, they are doing all they can to undermine you.

In the newspaper business, you run into that type quite often.

I developed a sixth sense about such people and usually, I'm cordial, listen to them briefly and move on.

I have to feel sorry for these people because their lives are so miserable that they have to try to make life and the lives of others miserable as well.

I guess the adage is true, that misery does indeed love company.

To me, these people fall under the same line as those who gossip.

You know the type as well.

They take a little nugget of information, and they believe it is the biggest news they have that day and they run with it.

By the time it comes back to them, the story is huge.

I have seen good, decent people have their reputations go down the drain because someone spread a rumor about them.

Hey, it's part of life when you live in a small town.

To me it is really regrettable to watch it happen, but until everyone remembers that "bearing false witness" is in the Top Ten, things will never change.

Gossiping puts us in the place of judging others. In a court of law, rumors and opinions are not allowed because they might unjustly sway the opinion of the jury. So it is when we turn our living rooms into courtrooms where we sit as judge and allow rumor and opinion to color and often damage the reputation of others who have no chance to defend themselves.

This is just cowardly.

If you are not sure something is gossip, you must look carefully into the matter without assuming that what you have been told is true. Go to the source and get the facts straight.

Why not go to the person the gossip is about and ask them face-to-face.

Why be so childish about it?

I'll tell you why.

Because human nature dictates that we think we are better than we really are.

That in the grand scale of things there are differences in society.

Well I may not be the richest man in Butler County, I may not drive the nicest car or have the finest home, but I'm true to myself and that matters to me.

Also, I worked for another newspaper, and the late publisher of that newspaper use to ask gossip-mongers in his town the following when presented with some tidbit:

"Were you hiding under the bed?"

I guess that sums up the way I look at it.

Jay Thomas is the group managing editor of Greenville Newspapers and can reached at 334-383-9302, ext. 136, via email at or write P.O. Box 507, Greenville, 36037.