Many people try to avoid listening to idle office gossip or reading the latest rumor floating around the Internet, but it is nearly impossible to escape hearing at least one unsubstantiated rumor during the average day. Whether it's the boss about to mothball the entire division or a public figure about to make a shocking confession, most rumors start with the dubious claims of a "friend of a friend" or the overheard words of an alleged insider. Where they go from there can be anyone's guess.
Some rumors start with deliberate misinformation. Whether it is a disgruntled employee, romantic rival or jealous competitor, someone with malicious intent will start the rumor mill turning by making a false statement or planting a salacious piece of gossip into the right ears. Once those people have started their own rumormongering, the rumor takes on a life of its own, with very few attempts at fact checking. By the time the rumor enters mainstream conversations, it may be completely blown out of proportion or the details may be even more unpleasant.
Another way rumors start is through a misinterpretation of the facts. A secretary might overhear part of a conversation between her boss and a human resource director and misinterpret it as preparations for a massive lay-off, for example. When people start looking for solid answers in a sea of rumors, even small or insignificant facts can suddenly become major fodder for new rumors. A lack of concrete information from a reliable source can prompt interested parties to rely more heavily on rumor and innuendo instead of assuming that no news is good news.
There are some occasions in which rumors start from actual truths, but the facts become too intermingled with gossip or misinformation to be of much use. Rumors surrounding politicians and other public figures are often wrapped around a small nugget of truth, but the details have been deliberately exaggerated or downplayed depending on the slant or bias of the person who recounts it. Unfortunately, a number of people consider rumor and gossip to be more compelling than straight facts, so many media-based rumors start in an effort to sell more magazines or attract more viewers.
Sometimes rumors die a quick death as the true facts emerge and people lose interest in perpetuating a myth or gossip. Other times the rumormongers are discredited before the rumors have a chance to travel down the grapevine. Unfortunately, some rumors do gain traction and become confused with actual fact until either a respected authority debunks them or the subject of those rumors can successfully acquit himself or herself in the court of public opinion.