Show Your Work: The Pinocchio Test

While Politifact rates acts of fiction by public officials on a scale of True to Pants on Fire, WashPo uses the Pinocchios: how many wooden noses does it rank?

U.S. Sen. Katie Britt’s rebuttal to the State of the Union ranked four Pinocchios for bizarrely conflating a sex trafficking horror story with the policies of President Biden. WashPo dug in and found that the woman whose story she told – and who was brave enough to testify about the horrors she endured before Congress – was trafficked in Mexico, not over the border; had nothing to do with immigration but of a woman being tricked into sex slavery by a man she loved; and it took place in 2004-2008, which was during President George W. Bush’s tenure. It also had nothing to do with cartels, despite Britt’s later protestations that basically amounted to, “Facts? What facts?” Politifact also rated the claim false, with a great deal of detail.

Also, the lady involved is a tad peeved about it.

Biden’s speech took a few hits from the fact-checkers. One I find a tad nitpicky: WashPo points out that Biden was comparing the massive job creation in his first three years to the full four years of his predecessors; “he has no idea what will happen in his fourth year!” Okay, but I think we all get that he’s not psychic. However, his inflation numbers are a tad… inflated? (sorry.) And there are a few other Pinocchios in the numbers on the wealthy and taxes because corporate/millionaire taxes are complex. The poor poor dears. Here’s the roundup from WashPo.

Elsewhere this week, ProPublica dove into railroad safety and how the Federal Railroad Administration…. er, doesn’t. More than 130 deaths of workers never even reported, with no consequences.

Reuters found the darker side of OnlyFans: more than 120 cases of people being featured in explicit videos without consent, including a woman who was raped and the video sold on the site. Cases of stalkers and revenge porn are on the rise on the site. What makes this different than YouTube or other places where human monsters post this kind of material? OnlyFans’ paywall makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to do anything.

Government: A.I. could pose an extinction-level threat to people who aren’t writers. Writers are already there.

The Detroit Free Press found that the people of Flint, Mich. may have clean water now, but still haven’t received a dime of the $600m+ they were awarded in the lawsuits.

Editor and Publisher dug into the upcoming merger between Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting/Reveal.

Poynter examines how political campaigns are pivoting away from the press to take their messages directly through social media, and how that dovetails with the rising anti-media hate on the right.

The two McClatchy papers in the Seattle area are moving to printing only three days a week. I wish people would stop seeing these moves as death knells. In an era where more than 80 percent of readers get their news from a device, continuing print editions is clinging to nostalgia. The best explanation I ever heard for it came from a newspaper editor and colleague, who was asked the question by my students a few semesters ago. He told them that we all know the print edition is going the way of movable type, not that any of them knew what that is. But there is a generation that still prefers paper newspapers, and it would unethical to leave them without news at all. But not to put too fine a point on it, that generation won’t be around forever. One interesting legal point: can you be the paper of record if your publication is online only? Some lawyers and scholars say no, but what will they do for legal ads when everyone is online?

Sadly, the Online News Association is making major programming cuts, including its Student Newsroom and Innovation Lab. They point out that there are fewer journalists in the U.S. and fewer still with time and money for professional organizations. As one who has been deeply involved with the venerable Society of Professional Journalists throughout her career, I know this one well. Of ONA’s 51 chapters, 35 are inactive and only four have held an in-person event in the last year.

Meta is decommissioning CrowdTangle and replacing it with a similar tool that will only be available to academic and nonprofit researchers. Journalists not allowed. CrowdTangle has been widely used to follow viral spread of content, including misinformation and conspiracy theories, as well as figuring out what people are clicking so we can give them more of it.

Speaking of misinformation…. to the surprise of *checks notes* absolutely no one, OpenAI is completely ramping up election-year fakery with AI-generated robocalls, deepfake videos and images that are already making inroads overseas and in the U.S.

And now, This Week in Total Bullshit:

• U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene did NOT retweet and support allegations that satellites are intercepting prayer to Jesus. That was a spoof account.

• Michael Moore did not endorse Trump. (Seriously?)

• No, non-citizens still can’t vote, and you can’t bring in busfuls of undocumented immigrants to make them vote for you, which former President Trump has declared often over the past four years. How anyone can believe this staggers me. It’s worth noting that in other countries, non-citizens can vote if they own property, because taxation without representation is kind of a bad thing. We fought a teeny little revolution over it. But not here. Also, there are no ballot drop boxes along the U.S. border.

• The Texas wildfires were not started by a mysterious green laser. Insert your own alien attack meme here.

• No, the CDC did NOT declare that “COVID is just the flu” and I am so, so tired. Also, when your ranting uncle declares at Easter that the CDC found 99 percent of COVID deaths were due to other causes, that’s also total bullshit.

March 2024 Linkspam: Return to the swamp

In the late 2000s, I wrote a media tie-in novel titled Dreadmire. It was a dark fantasy adventure tied to a d20 RPG published by Spellbinder Games, sourcebook by Randy Richards. The medievalesque high fantasy Randy created was inspired by the ecology and culture of the Louisiana bayous, and I found it a fascinating setting. I was hired to write a novel set in the world, a mixture of Randy’s creatures and my own machinations. It was a delightful romp in the swamp, and I was very pleased with its release. When it went out of print, Inkstained Succubus Productions picked it up for a re-release and it had a good run until Inkstained sadly went out of business.

From time to time I’d get questions about Dreadmire, and I always had to tell them their only hope was the used bookstores. However, as Dreadmire approaches its 15th anniversary, Randy and I have figured out the contracts and Dreadmire will be released once again on an unsuspecting public. 

More about this in the fiction section below, and there’s plenty more going on this month! I did some hard-news work on election coverage (and there will probably be more coming), got my first public-radio byline, did a deeper-dive in the growing epidemic of suicide among construction workers, and more! Read on…


This month was both AWP and Conflation, which thankfully had a week between them so I had a chance of catching my breath. AWP was an absolute delight, which I narrated daily in the Patreon, so check the links below for specifics. I didn’t do much in the way of photography in Kansas City, as I’ve hit that city several times to date, but mmm barbecue.

Conflation closed out the month, which is always like a big family reunion for me. I love the relaxacons, which allow me to sell books out of my room and close the door for a nap when I need it. I taught a writing workshop based on using images, which comes from some of my MFA work and the workshop I taught last year, and I’m continuing to refine it for con requests. 

Coming up this month is Midsouthcon! It was the first convention I attended as a pro, if I remember correctly, and the one I haunted as an undergrad lo these many eons ago in Memphis. We are deep in our mischief-plotting for our return to the weird Escher hotel where MSC will be hosted; the last time we were in the Hotel of Many Ramps was 2009, which doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. If you’re going to be in the area, please come by! 

2024 calendar:
• Midsouthcon, Memphis, Tenn. March 22-24 (guest author)
• Sigma Tau Delta conference, St. Louis, Mo. April 3-6 (attending)
• SPJ regional conference, St. Louis, Mo. April 13 (speaker/coordinator)
• National Federation of Professional Women, St. Louis,Mo. June 2022 (speaker)
• TechWrite STL, St. Louis, Mo. July 10 (speaker)
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 19-21 (guest author)
• Dragoncon, Atlanta, Ga. Sept. 5-9  (guest author)
• Edwardsville Book Festival, Edwardsville, Ill. Oct. 12 (tent.)
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Oct. 4-6  (guest author)


• Madison County Board chair calls censure for campaign finance ethics violation ‘a lynching’ (St. Louis Public RadioYahoo NewsBelleville News-Democrat)
• $18 million awarded to Illinois Works pre-apprenticeship programs (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Illinois workers owed more than $5 million in back wages (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Community rallies around Highland athlete fighting for life after car crash (Belleville News-DemocratAOLYahoo News)
• Suicide is growing national crisis; construction workers are at high risk (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Unions added 139,000 members in 2023, but density remains stubbornly low (PortsidePopular ResistanceSt. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Nippon pledges not to move production jobs overseas (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Foxes Boxes union bakery celebrates one-year anniversary (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland plans to extend two TIF districts, create a third (Highland News-LeaderYahoo News)
• Highland residents have mixed views of new ‘containerized’ trash service (Highland News-LeaderYahoo NewsAOL)
• United Steelworkers union files grievance over U.S. Steel’s plan to sell to Japan’s Nippon Steel (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Olin Winchester cited, fined over death of union worker (St. Louis Labor Tribune)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 


With the new year, I started two new blog features. Each week (more or less) I have posted on a roundup of Show Your Work: updates in the journalism world and a rundown on what was total garbage on the internet this week. Like you, I am tired of seeing rampant misinformation mindlessly reposted on social media without the simple Google search that would show it’s completely false. I also have begun posting BookNotes on that not only updates on the latest kerfuffle in the publishing and speculative fiction universes, but follows the ongoing issue of book banning and censorship in the U.S.

This proved to be more work than I could reasonably keep up with given the rate of freelance work I’m getting and also had to be canceled on weeks when I travel. I am considering shifting them to Substack on a biweekly schedule, but that requires more research. As always, whatever I write is offered to Patreon subscribers for free, because they’re already paying for my work. (Which is why you should totally subscribe.) I intend to keep this up, as I believe both of these topics need attention, but the format might shift as we go forward.

• BookNotes: Don’t say race (Elizabeth Donald)
• BookNotes: Nevermore (Patreon)
• Show Your Work: Zappa to me (Patreon and Donald Media)
• Show Your Work: ProPublica kicks all the ass (Donald Media)
• Show Your Work: Sesame Street News (Donald Media)


Dreadmire is leading the news this month! If you want a taste of my dark swamp (ew), you can read the prologue here for free. The image posted above is the preliminary cover; it may see some tweaking between now and the release, which I hope will be soon. Book publishing moves faster when it’s already been edited extensively by the staff of two (2) publishers, but it still takes some time. 

Also out this month: the St. Louis Writers Guild 2024 anthology includes a short piece by me titled “Not.” I’m honored to be included in this anthology for the first time, and with a piece of literary fiction, which is a departure from my usual ghosties and beasties. You can preorder a dead-tree version here, or get it for Kindle here


• Pearl-clutching at the restroom door (MediumPatreon)
• Review: Life Signs by James Lovegrove (Patreon)
• Your obituary, brought to you by robots (Patreon)
• AWP: Onward (Patreon)
• AWP: Success is making words (Patreon)
• AWP: The poetical political (Patreon)
• AWP: The long walk (Patreon)
• Review: The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (Patreon)

Note: All Patreon entries are indexed going back to its launch in 2018. I wanted new Patrons to be able to easily find the work that they’ve missed, and hopefully seeing how much work is on the Patreon might encourage some good folks to subscribe. (Hint, hint.) Seriously, subscriptions start at $1 a month, and I truly believe some of the best work I’ve ever done is on the Patreon. Check out the index here.


My shoots this month were pretty much work-related: union protests, lots of food shoots, a few pieces of future blackmail evidence from Conflation, some spot news photography, and KITTIES. Yes, I got to shoot a cat cafe for Feast Magazine, and it should be published sometime soon. I got to hang around adorable kittycats and eat espresso cookies for my job. Sometimes this gig rocks. 

Almost all of the images in the galleries are available for purchase, so if you see something you like that isn’t in the store, email and we’ll get you a quote. A few might not be available for purchase due to copyright issues.

Show Your Work: ProPublica kicks all the ass

Illinois is proposing some incentives requiring Big Tech to pay newsrooms for the content they produce, offering tax breaks and scholarships in the hopes of repopulating local newsrooms, and requiring four months’ notice before a local news organization can be sold to an out of state company.

This comes after the reveal that Illinois has lost 85 percent of its journalists in the last ten years. California and New York also are seeking to require Big Tech like Google and Facebook to support the actual journalists who do the actual reporting on which they make massive advertising profits. (This is why I always get salty when someone says, “I get my news from social media.” No, you don’t. The only social medium that has a dedicated staff of journalists is LinkedIn. The others are reposting work done by us underpaid hacks, and they’re making a fortune while we starve.) Check out the details here.

Meanwhile ProPublica is kicking ass all over the internet this week. Check it out:

ProPublica partnered with the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal and the Marshall Project to uncover that a county in Mississippi has appointed lawyers for only 20 percent of felony defendants who came before the court. Approximately 80 percent of felony defendants need a court-appointed attorney because they can’t afford a private attorney, but despite the Sixth Amendment, Mississippi basically ignores the law and forces defendants to represent themselves. Against the law? Overruled by the state Supreme Court? Yes, but no one enforces it. Judges simply ignore it.

And in another report, ProPublica found a GAO report that indicates severe complications for pregnant veterans have doubled in the last 10 years, with even higher rates for Black women.

The Minnesota attorney general found substandard living conditions for dairy workers, which is a nice way of saying millions of dollars in unpaid wages, squalid conditions without heat or toilets infested with mold and cockroaches, and horrific abuses of undocumented workers because what are they going to do, call the police? If you can stomach it, here’s the full story, which ProPublica has been examining for a year – including the death of an 8-year-old boy from Nicaragua.


• Faced with the elimination of their entire budget for the student news magazine, the journalism students of Webster University are raising the money themselves as they work for free.

The trial of Robert Telles continues with hardly anyone besides the news media paying attention. This is a public official accused of stabbing Las Vegas reporter Jeff German to death in 2022. German was investigating allegations of misconduct on Telles’ part when he was found stabbed in his front yard. Seems German got death threats from other people too, which is unfortunately pretty common in our profession, but the defense is latching onto it as exculpatory.

This Week in Total Bullshit:

• No, Google is not sunsetting Gmail. The internet would collapse.

• Believe it or not, the GoFundMe raising money to help former President Donald Trump pay his enormous legal bills is not a violation of the terms of service. GoFundMe does not allow fundraising for criminal trials, but Trump’s fundraiser is specifically for his civil cases. Thus GoFundMe has confirmed it is not a violation of the TOS, according to the corporate spokesman who probably wishes he was working for Apple this week.

• President Biden did not sign an executive order giving $5,000 gift cards to undocumented immigrants. The order listed in the viral meme is 9066, which was actually the order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt interning the Japanese Americans, so bully for the idiots in doubling down on racism. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most federal programs, except for emergency medical care which any fucking human should agree is basic.

• The Kids Online Safety Act will not require you to upload your government ID to use the internet. (Sheesh.)

• The image of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and the Minnesota attorney general was photoshopped to make the senior citizens in the background hold “Defund the Police” signs.

• Your Stanley cup is not trying to kill you with lead poisoning.

• There is no evidence that the shooter who attacked Joel Osteen’s church was transgender, nor that there is some “trans terror” campaign beginning. Fox News has altered their headline since originally “reporting” thus.

• If you are in the habit of listening to Elon Musk for health information – and whyyyyy – you should know that there is no scientific consensus that hormonal birth control makes you fat and depressed and triples your risk of suicide. There is also no scientific consensus that the same effect can be reached by listening to Elon Musk.

• Nobody tried to kill Dr. Oz for developing a cure for diabetes, which by the way doesn’t exist. (The cure, that is; diabetes sadly still exists.)

• It’s not exactly bullshit, because the Wendy’s CEO did float the idea of “surge pricing” in a conference call with investors. But since the internet exploded with “Aw hell naw” they’ve changed their minds and will not be going forward. Naturally this hasn’t stopped anyone from yelling boycott.

What ISN’T total bullshit? The Peters class action about Apple family sharing is very real, and you should click the link to find out if you’re eligible for what I’m sure will be a very tiny payment.

Finally: Enjoy this gallery of Pulitzer Prize photography and the African American experience.