Googling the Truth

BCC coverIn Books, Crooks & Counselors, I give some tips for research, including ways to check the reliability of websites.

So when I saw this article by Angela Hill of the San Jose Mercury News, Truth Isn’t All It Used to be Online, I read closely. It’s a smart piece. Hill looks at our growing tendency to check facts quickly — fine, as far as it goes, but we don’t always go far enough, often stopping when we see a confirming source, without checking its reliability. (An example, I think, of what psychologists call “confirmation bias.”) The result can be greater certainty in incredible theories — increasing fragmentation in an already divided society.

Technology is changing the classroom, too, with teachers now recognizing that they need to give students tools to sort the glut of information available and figure out what can and can’t be relied on.

Where does Wikipedia come in? Not surprisingly, its directors contend that the entries are as reliable as encyclopedias ever were — truth not always being so easy to quantify. (“The victors write the history books,” after all.)

And so, as much or more than ever, we need to dig deep. Or as Hill quotes “Quiz Princess” Hailey Field, who hosts a trivia night in an Oakland brewpub. “Use your brain, not your technology.”


Do you really like me? Nomination season!

Like the site and blog? Thank you! Please take a moment to nominate Law and Fiction for Writer’s Digest’s annual 101 Best Websites for Writers award, by sending an email to with 101 Websites in the subject line, and in the message.

The blog Write to Done is running its 7th Annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest
2012. Please consider nominating the blog,, by following their easy prompts.

Ruff and I say “Thanks!”


Suspicious bail issues investigated

From time to time, I’ll post about strange goings-on that might give fiction writers ideas for their novels and screenplays.

In Kalispell, Montana, in the northwest corner of the state, a man has been bailing young women out of the Flathead County jail – women who didn’t know him – apparently to coerce them into sex by threatening to revoke their bail if they don’t agree. According to an account in The Daily Interlake, the problem didn’t come to light immediately because the imposter didn’t post bail directly. Instead, he went through a commercial bonding firm. When one woman refused to go along with the man’s demands, he withdrew his payment without telling her, leaving her susceptible to re-arrest.

According to a later report in The Missoulian,  sheriffs’ deputies have discovered that the man is posing as a pastor ore retired police officer. He gives the bonding firm the impression that he knows the woman, and insists that she live with him as a condition of the bail. A local bondsman suspects that another inmate is giving the imposter information about the women. Sheriff Chuck Curry, who believes three or four women have been involved, told The Missoulian that the case is tough to investigate because the victims are hard to locate. “These are people who have been incarcerated, so sometimes they’re not the easiest people to come up with,” he said. “They aren’t all coming forward.”

Imagine the fictional possibilities.