I used to see that bumper sticker on all the station wagons parked in the neighborhood I lived in pre-Thing One. Of course, being the bad Jew that I am, I had no idea what that meant, but I did look it up. It's human nature that when you're with a group of friends, sometimes it's not easy to engage in a little gossip, a little "I know this about that person/event"... but sometimes it goes a little too far for my comfort.
The other day I was speaking with a colleague. She has a new head of department this year and I was asking how things were going - was this being a good year for her professionally? She said yes, it was, that the new head was bringing in some new ideas and had been helpful to her in thinking about the program. Then asked if the rest of the department was having an equally good year. She replied that she avoided talking about these things because she didn't want to hear the gossip and nasty backbiting that some of the others delight in.
I was thinking about this as I returned from ALA to find e-mails from friends who has not been able to attend. Some asked about the YALSA pre-conference, others about committee meetings and gatherings. A few asked about mutual friends. And a couple pointedly asked "what gossip did you hear? what about [name] or [name]? what happened with [event/situation]?" The thing is, I'm not comfortable running down colleagues professionally, or personally.
Yes, there's a fine line between saying "I heard that [name] is going through a difficult time" while trying to figure out a way to support them, or sharing information/news about a school program or colleague, and it's another to (as the Torah says) make derogatory or damaging statement against an individual.
One of my goals is, as those bumper stickers reminded the community, to put the brakes on loshon hora.