I have been reading many articles lately that refer to Snopes, the fact checking website as an organization, or team of investigators. The truth of the matter is that Snopes is not an organization as people seem to think it is. Snopes is owned and operated by two people, David and Barbara Mikkelson, who employ two others to help them in their research, it is far from a large organization.
Many people seem to think that there are a team of investigators behind all of the fact checking that Snopes has to do to keep up with the demand of questions, but that is not the truth for Snopes. That is not to say that they are not right in their fact checking because there are only two fact checkers and two email readers, I say it only to get the truth out there, that this is not a large enterprise, with teams of investigators as so many think it is. See this New York Times Article for an interview with the Mikkelsons
Snopes was started in 1996 as part of the couple’s hobby, it was only an online encyclopedia of urban legends and myths. Mr Mikkelson was a true researcher of folklore, he admits that when he would need information he made up the name the “San Fernando Valley Folklore Society” to use on letterhead so it would sound more “official”. The couple used to research the origins of classic tales about killers and lovers lane, until the 9/11 attacks on our country that killed so many innocent civilians.
That is when Snopes starting getting the dreaded “forwarded e-mail” with bogus claims and rumors. That is also when people began to think that Snopes may be too one sided, and that they were being funded by one of our Parties. Democrats thought the Republicans funded Snopes and vice versa. The truth is, Snopes is not funded by either the Democrats, or the Republicans as many people tend to think when they don’t get the answer they would like to get. Snopes gets their funding from advertisements sold by an outside network, that does not sway the true answers they find.
Mr. Mikkelson feels that it is the naiveté of web users that bring them to their site, the true Snopes think that people spot one little thing they don’t like in an email and they are gullible enough to believe it, or right away think it’s a fake. Mr. Mikkelson perceives that gossip will always win out over the truth, Snopes however, will go on and bring the truth as they find it on the internet.
I wonder why Snopes doesn’t ever post the actual event, most if not all speeches and talk shows that are questioned in these forwarded e-mails, were recorded by someone, and a video tells more of the truth than Snopes finds on places like Semmens, John, “Semi-News-A Satirical Look at Recent News” dated October 27th 2007 to answer a question in 2010. A lot has happened in those three years, and quoting a satirical look at the news is like watching a comedy central talk show host to get your news.
When I want to know the truth, Snopes is where I go, but I always check the source and the date of the information they are basing their answer on. If the information is outdated or not from a “real” newspaper or news program, I do my own research, unless of course I heard the speech, or saw the program that someone is forwarding me in those dreaded e-mails.