Nevada County Scooper shutters satirical website | TheUnion.com

Nevada County Scooper shutters satirical website

The Nevada County Scooper, a satirical news website that featured fake stories ranging from federal gun confiscation efforts to an opinion piece excoriating a Nevada City official, is out of operation.

Randall "Fink" Finkelstein III, the pseudonym for the site's publisher and chairman, gave no notice some three weeks ago when he told the Scooper's chatroom he intended to close the website, said Tom Durkin, a freelance writer who in 2015 wrote a story for The Union about the web page.

"He gave no reasons other than to say it was time to move on," Durkin said in an email. "His only official statement is 'so long, and thanks for all the fish.'"

The quotation, attributed to author Douglas Adams, references Finkelstein's online avatar — a cartoon fish.

“I sincerely hope it returns, and not because we like debunking their stories per se, just that we like to see good satire being used for its intended purpose.”

—Brooke Binkowski

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Finkelstein couldn't be reached for comment.

The Scooper, started in 2014, referred to itself as "a satirical website in scope and intent." Its manifesto stated: "We've found that many people are confused by the satirical genre, often believing that it is supposed to be funny. Although that often is true, satire is primarily a medium of criticism that employs irony, criticism, juxtaposition and hyperbole to illuminate the issues of the day."

Its writers, editors and owners maintained anonymity.

Brooke Binkowski — managing editor of http://www.snopes.com, which bills itself the definitive internet reference source for urban legends and misinformation — helped debunk some Scooper stories. However, she said she had a good relationship with the website. Binkowski and Finkelstein, the latter appearing on a computer monitor as a fish with his voice projected through speakers, spoke in September at a "fake news" event in Grass Valley.

"I sincerely hope it returns, and not because we like debunking their stories per se, just that we like to see good satire being used for its intended purpose," Binkowski said over Twitter.

The website also had its enemies. A Nevada City councilwoman and frequent target of the Scooper, Reinette Senum expressed elation over the Scooper's demise.

"I would be thrilled if they were gone," said Senum, adding that the site's headlines and arguments led hundreds of people to send her death threats and encourage a boycott of her former business. "They played a significant role in that."

The Scooper in summer 2016 posted an article about Senum after she made a controversial Facebook post about the Dallas shooting that killed five police officers.

"They have obviously been given directives to go out there and kill," Senum wrote.

Some members of the Nevada City police called for Senum's ouster from the council. The Scooper posted an article titled "City Councilwoman: The Dallas Police Got What They Deserved." Senum said last year her post was meant to start a conversation.

Senum said she initially thought the Scooper was satirical, then realized it was malicious and targeted people.

"No pun intended, but it smelled awfully fishy for a long time," Senum said.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.