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After Deadline: Rumors move at the speed of light

November 30, 2018

Here are three rumors I’d like to spread:

1. People have told me that city council members Michael Wojcik and Randy Staver will battle it out in the octagon in a pay-per-view event that will raise funds for another piece of art designed to be a knockoff of a famous Chicago sculpture.

2. Scuttlebutt is that Mayo Head Honcho John Noseworthy will leave the medical institution to start a hot yoga and aromatherapy clinic called “Sweats and Smells.”

3. There’s a rumor that Byron Public Schools will paint over its iconic bear mural in the high school gym that shows a bear busting through the wall.

So, dear readers, which of these untrue rumors really was flying around the greater Med City area over the past few weeks?

As much as I wish it was the first two — just for the potential headlines in the PB — it was actually No. 3.

Starting Nov. 16, a Facebook post by a concerned Byronite (whose name I’ll not mention) started the rumor that the school district’s administration planned to paint over the Chandler Anderson mural that originally cost the district $7,000.

By that evening, School Board Member Tessa Olive said, the rumor was flying around Byron and reached her at a gathering.

“I don’t know where this started,” Olive said on Nov. 19 after I’d reviewed the agenda for that night’s Byron School Board meeting, noting the complete lack of agenda items regarding painting over the bear.

The same was echoed by Byron Superintendent Joey Page, who sent a message to the community saying, basically, uh, no.

“(We) yearly refresh the paint in the high school gymnasium. This does not include the bear mural,” he wrote.

Of course, this was after about 150 messages on Facebook decrying the horror of painting over the bear mural and imploring the district to “Save the Bear!”

Relax, folks. We have a better chance of learning how to downward dog in a hot room with Noseworthy.

Curse You, Facebook!

We’d all be better off, sometimes, without Facebook. It spreads rumors that we hear as true because, well, we read it on internet, so it must be true, right?

The panic over Byron’s bear is just one of many stories that have little or no basis in truth that cross our desks and our computer screens from time to time.

Last year, the company that runs ICE detention facilities noted that it was looking at possible sites for a yet-to-be-funded, yet-to-be authorized detention facility to be located ... somewhere.

At the time, one of the six possible locations mentioned was Pine Island.

The panic began in earnest. We got calls and emails saying Management & Training Corp., the company that builds the detention centers — the concentration camps! — would break ground in Pine Island any moment. Heck, it was almost as if Mayor Rod Steele was personally ripping immigrant babies from their mothers’ arms.

Alas, precious little of the concern was warranted.

Pine Island was on a short list. And the city council did vote to keep its name in the running long enough to hear what MTC and the federal government had to say.

But, between public pressure and the fact the Democrats now control the U.S. House, funding for a new ICE detention facility seems unlikely. And at no time, had Pine Island’s city council approved development of a new ICE detention facility in the town.

That said, those opposed to the project ratcheted up the DEFCON to 1, making this a major story for a few weeks. Heck, even the TV people showed up at the Pine Island City Council meeting, something I’ve seen just one other time in the past seven years.

The Outrage!

Look, if you want to stop an ICE facility before it starts, that’s fine. Freedom of speech (and press) is my jam. Let your voice be heard.

But please — please! — debate from the facts and don’t conflate something that isn’t yet a thing into a crisis. No one is planning to paint over a beloved $7,000 mural in Byron, and all it took was a couple of quick phone calls and a fast web search for me to confirm that the paint was not ready to roll over the bear.

The last thing I want to do is discourage news tips. But if something sounds a little too awful to believe, maybe do a quick check yourself. That’s what we do.

Then, when you hear that Destination Medical Center is going to install a high-speed monorail loop from downtown Rochester to several satellite parking areas in Byron, Pine Island and Eyota, maybe call one of the city planning offices first.

It might just be too outrageous to be true.

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