A decade ago, I used to do a regular segment on my radio show with Barbara Mikkelson who, with her husband David, run Snopes.com (the Urban Legends Reference Pages). She’d come on ever month or two to talk about the latest nonsense that people were sending and re-sending via e-mail, spreading rumors or half-truths that the Mikkelsons would investigate and inevitably debunk. This was before Google made it easier to track things down, and before other urban legends sites cropped up.
Listeners used to send me virtually every one of these stories, so I’d receive them many times over, and I’d always write back, “Before you send me anything like this, please check it out with Snopes.com. That’s what I do, and if you did it, you’d save us both a lot of time!”
Sadly, that barely slowed down the garbage flowing into my inbox. So I can only imagine what Barbara and David have to deal with every day.
Yes, they’re still at it. In Friday’s New York Times, David Pogue posted the transcript of an interview he did with Barbara for “Sunday Morning” on CBS. The whole thing’s here, but this is my favorite quote:
People will write to us and say, “Well, I know the one about Microsoft was a hoax, and the one about Nike was a hoax. And the one about Honda was a hoax. And the one about Levi’s was a hoax. But I got this one about Sony giving away laptops. Is this true? (laughs) So there are times when you kind of throw up your hands and wonder if anybody’s actually learning anything.
They’re not, Barbara. The unfortunate truth is that you have a job for life.