A couple of weeks ago, I posted a photo of my book Half-Truths and Brazen Lies on Facebook with this little gem:
"Looks like I should have called my book, "Half-Truths and Alternative Facts."
It was shortly after the term, "alternative facts" launched itself into our collective lexicon (our language and vocabulary). Everybody seemed to be talking about lies, deception and untruths.
The post got a bunch of "likes" and my mom's friend posted the comment,
"Don't beat yourself up, Kira. You couldn't have known!"
But here's the thing: the idea for the book actually grew out of a class I took about lies in media. I've been a journalist for over 20 years and about five years ago I attended a seminar about the growing number of tricky online lies that reporters have to fact-check. It's becoming more and more difficult to report on what we see and read online and know for sure that it's actually true.
The man teaching the class showed us a photo shot not long after Hurricane Katrina blew through the Louisiana coastline. It showed a shark -- yes, a shark -- swimming along flooded New Orleans streets.
The photo went viral!
Of course it did. The idea of a shark swimming down the streets of a major city is terrifying. People were scared, especially when reporters started writing articles that it was true.
Only one problem. The shark wasn't real. It was Photoshopped.
I sat in the class that day looking at this fake shark photo, when an idea suddenly hit me -- human beings are amazing! We have been lying and deceiving since forever...and now we've come up with technology that's making it even easier to be devious.
Oh, man. I just had to write a book about lies and deception for kids.
I have no idea what happened during the rest of that class. I spent the remaining time frantically scribbling down ideas for the book I wanted to call "Pants on Fire!" By the end, I had a good start on an outline:
- the ethics of lying,
- how to catch people in the act,
- the kinds of lies we live with every day,
- compulsive liars (they just can't help it!)
- and, yes, the technology that makes it easier to pull off.
And now here we are in 2017. The book is on the shelves. People can't stop talking about lies, truth, facts and fake news.
So does that mean my book is here at the right place at the right time -- or at the right place at the wrong time?
Either way, reading through the book now, I'm amazed at how relevant it is. And how fortunate it is that we have a book for kids that explores the complicated issues around lies and truthfulness that they're hearing about in school, at home, in the media and out in their communities.