EDITORIAL: Part of the solution

Published 6:34 pm Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Here at the Daily News, we receive news tips quite often. However, every now and then, someone calls the paper with a news tip that seems … well, unbelievable, even outlandish. Nonetheless, in the interest of providing the news to the residents of Beaufort County, we determinedly track down the sources of these tips and find out whether there’s actually a news story there, or not.
Last week, we received several phone calls — one from the managing editor of an Outer Banks paper — asking us for information about a rumored homicide on the Intracoastal Waterway. Some of the callers sounded truly upset, which is how Daily News staff ended up in a conversation with the sheriff of Hyde County. It was, after all, in his jurisdiction where the alleged murder took place.
Sheriff David T. Mason quickly dispelled the rumor with a laugh. Someone in his office had found blood on the tall bridge over the waterway June 18. They took a sample, sent it off to the state lab where it was promptly identified as animal blood. End of story? Well, not quite the end of the story.
But the rumors had started and were spiraling out of control. On his end, Mason had heard a federal agent had been shot and thrown off the bridge; on our end, it was a headless body from Miami dumped in our pristine waters.
The sheriff had a laugh at that. But when he was asked whether any concerned Hyde County residents had been calling the sheriff’s office to verify these rumors rather than calling the newspaper, the answer was an immediate “No.”
And that’s a concern.
While this incident was an amusing sidetrack last week, a few weeks ago, during another situation, no one was laughing. Misinformation and rumor was also at the root of why a group of frustrated people took to the streets of Washington, bent on destruction: what they thought they saw was abuse at the hands of law enforcement. What they actually saw was law enforcement desperately trying to revive a man who attempted to swallow the evidence of a drug deal and choked on it instead. What they did was save the man’s life.
The minor destruction, and three arrests, that happened later could have been avoided. Luckily, no one was injured, no major damage done. But the lesson is, whether it’s tales of headless bodies in our waterways or rumors of abuse, it’s better to reach out to those agencies that know the truth.
Sometimes the difference between being part of the problem and part of the solution is a simple telephone call.