Is Isle of Wight redefining Webster’s?

Published 12:29 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2015

         By Diana McFarland

News editor

It seems Isle of Wight County has redefined the meaning of rumor.

“Voices from the Isle,” the county government’s recent attempt at disseminating its message online, has a section called “Fact Checker.”

Issues are presented as “rumors” along with a little meter that points to either true, mostly true, half-truth, barely true or false.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The most recent “Voices” disseminated last week includes the latest “rumor” that the county’s median age is increasing and could have an impact on the county’s future. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, a rumor is “talk or opinion widely disseminated with no discernible source,” or “a statement or report current without known authority for its truth.

The median age of a locality is a calculation made by the U.S. Census Bureau. As the Census Bureau keeps census records dating back decades, it is possible for someone to accurately determine that the median age is increasing in Isle of Wight County.

The U.S. Census Bureau is generally considered a credible source.

The Voices from the Isle fact checker uses this “rumor” to say that Isle of Wight needs to attract and retain younger residents or there may be economic implications on local revenue. Attracting Millennials was an argument for the recently failed ISLE 2040 plan.

The defeat of ISLE 2040 was also called a rumor in the Voices “Fact Checker,” despite the fact that it was defeated in a public vote by the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors. An online video of the vote, as well as being reported in local media sources confirmed the action.

Isle of Wight County spokesman Don Robertson doesn’t disagree that using the word rumor may not apply, but that the county doesn’t have a perfect way to state those items, he said.

Plus, not everyone reads the newspapers, he said.

Usually, the “Fact Checker” is used to confirm or deny things that people have been approached about, he said, adding that it might be worth looking into changing the word usage.

However, some items on “Fact Checker” could fall under the definition of rumor, such as the idea that the county wants to charge $50 to businesses for a fire inspection.

While Carrollton resident and Newport District Board of Supervisors candidate Albert Burckard brought that up at a recent board meeting, it hasn’t been discussed publicly by the supervisors or county staff.

The origins of that one are unknown, Robertson said.

Before Burckard spoke, the issue was investigated and discounted as an unfounded rumor by county officials interviewed for a possible news story in The Smithfield Times. The story didn’t run because it appeared to be a rumor after all. That item was later picked up as a rumor when the county created its “Fact Checker.”  {/mprestriction}