Faster Than Truth
Faster Than Truth
I feel the need to explain further. “Listen, Ravi. I’m just being realistic here. I am a failure. I wrote fake news. Moi. I mean sure, I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t deliberately spin any facts. But what I did was straight-up rotten work. False. Shoddy. Stupid.” I could go on but my voice is cracking.
“Poor Declan,” she says.
That startles me. I look at her closely. Is she mocking me? I can’t tell. She’s not looking back. She’s putting her camera away. I need to know if she’s giving me sympathy or throwing shade. “Thanks?” I say.
She slings the camera strap over her shoulder and shrugs. No clues there.
“So,” I mutter. “That’s it, you’re going?”
She gives me a cool look and turns away. Starts walking. Then she pauses and glances back over her shoulder. “Fake news is bad. But fake identities are worse.”
She’s gone by the time I reply, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Declan has a passion for writing news stories, gritty, pay-attention stories that tell the truth. After graduating from high school, he wants to travel the world to report on stories that make people take notice, that make a difference. Now in grade eleven and the editor of the school newspaper, The Standard, Declan is busy cultivating his resume for what he hopes will be a great career in journalism. That is, until tired of slow-news days and facing a publishing deadline, Declan finds a story coming his way that is so “freaking hideous’ he pushes aside any niggling doubts of authenticity and publishes it.
Declan wonders if the story, which involves a proposal in an email from a school board member to the principal to embed electronic chips or ‘trackers’ in students, is legal. Smoke, a student who is known by everyone but is nobody’s friend, is the one who brings Declan the story. Smoke is a wild card, with his grey-streaked hair and smoky odour, but Declan’s initial reluctance to publish hearsay is overridden when Smoke shows him a photo capturing the incriminating evidence.
Ravi, a talented photographer and also on the student paper, creates the images for the story, and they set the edition to print. On their way home, Ravi can see Declan is excited. Declan feels the story is going to be big and is sure they will get an immediate response via way of social media as “people can respond in seconds”. Ravi, doesn’t share Declan’s excitement and is “not sure that’s a good thing.”
By the time Principal Stewart discovers the story, it has gone viral with many responders damning the school, the establishment, anything they see as an injustice. But it is Declan who is the cause of the injustice and Principal Stewart, its victim. Declan is suspended, legal charges are being suggested and worst of all, the principal scoffs at Declan’s suggestion that he is a journalist, declaring, “No journalist worthy of the title would publish such shoddy work.” Declan has written fake news.
After resurrecting The Standard, a year ago, Mr. Lopez, the paper’s support teacher, expects them to hold the highest standard of journalism. His disappointment hits Declan the hardest, and Declan’s own self-recrimination causes him to write and post articles about the truth in media but all under a pseudonym. Ravi’s confronts Declan with the comment, “Fake news is bad. But fake identities are worse.”
Ravi loves seeing the truth as she looks through the camera lens and, thinking Smoke an interesting subject, she follows him. Ravi has captured an image of Smoke lighting a fire. When Ravi and Declan follow Smoke and catch him, they confront him and begin to understand that they’re not arson fires meant to damage buildings but are the burning of news articles. They lose hope. They stop seeing the good in the world.
In our current world where unverified sources and social media feeds sensational stories to the public, Faster Than Truth is a timely novel, one that highlights the damage that can be done when truth is not valued. The story moves quickly and will engage readers as they understand Declan’s need for approval and his passion for story. Ravi is a great equalizer, both talented but reasoned, and, through her, readers begin to see that not everything is as it seems. Smoke’s struggle with mental health will be relatable for some readers and a path to understanding for others.
Libby McKeever is a retired Youth Services Librarian from Whistler, British Columbia.