Banned Snopes co-founder plagiarized dozens of stories

Sometimes the details are stranger than fiction — and generally the details are plagiarized.

The co-founder of myth-debunking web site Snopes has been uncovered as a plagiarist, according to a BuzzFeed News investigation.

David Mikkelson, who launched Snopes in 1995 with a mission to be “the internet’s definitive fact-checking site,” was suspended by his firm, Doreen Marchionni, Snopes’ VP of editorial and its managing editor, confirmed to BuzzFeed, after their reporters uncovered at least 54 plagiarized articles by Mikkelson.

“Let us be clear: Plagiarism undermines our mission and values, full stop,” Marchionni said in a statement on Friday. “It has no place in any context within this organization.”

In response to the investigation, Mikkelson stated, “There is no excuse for my serious lapses in judgement. I’m sorry.”

BuzzFeed wrote that Mikkelson’s Snopes posts contained phrasing — even whole paragraphs — lifted from retailers such because the New York Times, CNN, the Guardian, the LA Times and the BBC between 2015 and 2019, typically underneath the byline “Snopes staff” or whereas utilizing the pseudonym Jeff Zarronandia.

“Zarronandia” was illustriously described in his Snopes bio as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and somebody gifted at “mule-skinning,” whose seemingly knowledgeable stories on the whole lot from arts and tradition to nationwide politics had prior to now drawn ridicule from the likes of former Donald Trump marketing campaign adviser Roger Stone, BuzzFeed stated.

David Mikkelson
David Mikkelson based Snopes.com with then-wife Barbara Hamel in 1995, billing the location as “the internet’s definitive fact-checking site.”
David Mikkelson

Snopes’ reporters have additionally collectively issued an announcement, writing that they “strongly condemn these poor journalistic practices,” including that they “work hard every day to uphold the highest possible journalistic and ethical standards.”

As of late Friday, Snopes had retracted 60 articles and disable ads on these webpages, based on the New York Times, and can proceed making retractions as they conduct their very own inner investigation. The firm was stated to have already flagged 140 articles for overview.

One such cribbed passage, written by Jon Schuppe for NBC News, appeared on Snopes.com underneath Mikkelson’s personal byline: “Muhammad Ali, the silver-tongued boxer and civil rights champion who famously proclaimed himself ‘The Greatest’ and then spent a lifetime living up to the billing, is dead.”

Mikkelson tried to clarify for his crimes in an interview with BuzzFeed. “I didn’t come from a journalism background,” he instructed them. “I wasn’t used to doing news aggregation. A number of times I crossed the line to where it was copyright infringement. I own that.”

Mikkelson insists that Zarronandia was created as a “stress-relief thing” throughout the fraught 2016 presidential election, when the idea of “fact-checking” grew to become an moral beacon for some, and a political bane to others.

plagiarized articles on Snopes.com
When utilizing plagiarized materials, Snopes.com founder Mikkelson typically however not at all times used the pseudonym Jeff Zarronandia or publish underneath the “Snopes staff” byline.
BuzzFeed News

“Let’s have some fun and watch these people vent their spleen inventing reasons why this nonexistent persona is biased,” he stated.

However, insiders revealed to BuzzFeed that Mikkelson’s behavior was pushed by a must drive site visitors to the web site — by being one of the primary websites to rehash essentially the most trending information headlines.

“He would instruct [writers] to copy text from other sites, post them verbatim so that it looked like we were fast and could scoop up traffic, and then change the story in real time,” Snopes’ former managing editor Brooke Binkowski instructed BuzzFeed. “I hated it and wouldn’t tell any of the staff to do it, but he did it all the time.”

The revelation comes within the aftermath of the heated divorce between Mikkelson and Snopes’ co-founder Barbara Hamel in 2015, which led to Hamel’s share of the corporate being offered to tech agency Proper Media. In 2017, the corporate filed suit against Mikkelson, claiming he’d mismanaged Snopes’ funds — and on the similar time Mikkelson launched his personal GoFundMe marketing campaign to boost cash for the web site.

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