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Pascal Froissart

Subject Communication and Media Studies » Communication Studies
Media Production and Content » Journalism

Key-Topics truth

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


The concept of rumor covers a wide range of realities: false or unverified →  news , of course, but also any journalistic errors or disinformation maneuvers when publicly revealed, any prejudices and stereotypes made into narratives, some →  propaganda pieces if ambiguous enough, some hoaxes their authors do not kill, some realistic contemporary legends, and even some examples of viral marketing. The reason for this conceptual maelstrom is that, although the reality of rumor is old and well documented, new and problematical conceptualizations of rumor have emerged. The term “rumor” is ancient and originally had a meaning close to “reputation” and “fame.” In Rome, rumor was used in the context of justice, such as when Quintilius listed it among tools including records, tortures, oaths, and witnesses. This antiquated meaning of rumor remains embedded in the modern sense, which only adds to the confusion in current usage and explains why even scholars (e.g., Allport & Postman 1947 ) cite the Aeneid – “Rumor! What evil can surpass her speed?” – without knowing the original Latin reference is to “fame” (“Fama, malum qua non aliud uelocius ullum”). The shift in definition coincided with the first published rumor theory by Louis William Stern, a German psychologist who in 1902 was the first scholar to reify rumor (unintentionally), giving it an autonomous mechanism, as if it ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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