The Standard was not the only media outlet to get tangled up in the Mike Tyson sex change story. SpyGhana, which describes itself as “Ghana’s leading general news and information destination online,” also reported on the hoax story as if it were true, Business Insider noted.
SpyGhana’s Dec. 11 story, “Shocking: Mike Tyson now a female,” didn’t carry any disclosure or hint that it isn’t real. It didn’t even carry a question mark at the end of its headline! While SpyGhana didn’t initially publish a correction on the original article, it did publish a follow-up story reporting that Tyson “denied rife online media reports” about the alleged sex change. That report didn’t mention that SpyGhana fell for the hoax. Tyson is quoted as giving a statement reading:
“I am still a man and I have always been fully in touch with my masculinity and have no intention of becoming a woman. The claims are not only untrue but unbelievably stupid. I was at the Pacquiao-Marquez fight on Saturday and any reasonable person could tell I was looking like a man.”
Most of the SpyGhana report was also stolen verbatim apparently from News Biscuit, but there wasn’t any credit, sourcing or attribution given to News Biscuit. The article carried the byline of “SpyGhana Reporter.”
After iMediaEthics contacted SpyGhana, which says on its website that it “integrates credible Ghanaian content and perspectives,” asking for a correction and why SpyGhana took credit for the News Biscuit story, a new “Source” line was added to the story. See below a screenshot of the bottom of the original article, and then a screenshot of the article with sourcing added.
Where the story originally made no mention of News Biscuit, following iMediaEthics’ inquiry, “Source: News Biscuit” was posted at the bottom of the story. See below:
In emails, SpyGhana’s Roger Agana said at first that SpyGhana had “rewritten” the News Biscuit story and later that it had originally attributed the story to News Biscuit and wasn’t trying to take credit for it. Then, SpyGhana unpublished its story. See below the original SpyGhana story. We highlighted every word that was News Biscuit’s wording.
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Later, someone identifying herself as Mrs. Mushura and SpyGhana’s “owner” responded to iMediaEthics on Agana’s behalf, identifying him as a “campus representative.” Mushura said that SpyGhana got the article from the site called 247 Naija Gossip, which conflicted with Agana’s claim that the story came from News Biscuit. She also pointed out that 247 Naija Gossip’s article had no sourcing either. But, after iMediaEthics’ side-by-side comparison of SpyGhana’s post with 247 Naija Gossip’s, it appears likely SpyGhana just re-published 247 Naija Gossip’s report.
SpyGhana’s post was word-for-word identical with 247 Naija Gossip’s — the very slight wording changes between SpyGhana’s post and the original News Biscuit report are in the 247 Naija Gossip story. But, the 247 Naija Gossip report also has no sourcing or credit to News Biscuit, despite being an almost verbatim copy of the News Biscuit item. It also didn’t carry a byline or disclose that it is not real news.
So, what seems to have happened is:
- News Biscuit published its spoof story on Mike Tyson.
- 247 Naija Gossip made a couple of tweaks to that report (for instance, deleting a couple of words or replacing a couple of words) and re-published it — without credit or attribution to News Biscuit — on 247 Naija Gossip’s site.
- SpyGhana re-published the 247 Naija Gossip story — without credit or attribution to either News Biscuit or 247 Naija Gossip. (iMediaEthics has asked 247 Naija Gossip to add a correction about the story being fake and to add attribution and sourcing to News Biscuit. 247 Naija Gossip responded quickly to our email acknowledging receipt but hasn’t responded to follow-up emails.)
Mushura acknowledged that SpyGhana didn’t give News Biscuit any credit for the story until iMediaEthics contacted the site, writing “there was no source… but after getting your mail he got the source.” She also provided SpyGhana’s copyright policy, which reads:
“If you believe that any content appearing on SpyGhana.com violates your copyright, please contact me and let me know if you would like to be sourced or if you would like the material removed. http://www.spyghana.com/contact/”
Mushura, who noted that Agana is “still learning,” agreed to post a correction on the original article link reflecting that the article was a hoax and that SpyGhana failed to credit News Biscuit. She asked iMediaEthics to help with the wording of the correction. We explained that we could provide an example of what we would do for such a correction along with some how-to articles on journalism corrections.
Mushura added in a Jan. 8 email that, despite 247 Naija Gossip’s lack of sourcing, Agana “should have checked well before republishing the article and give proper sourcing to the article.” On Jan. 10, SpyGhana published a note, “Mike Tyson Still Remains a Male,” which includes iMediaEthics’ suggested text for a correction. It reads:
“The article originally published here, “Shocking, Mike Tyson Now a Female,” has been removed. The article was re-published from 247 Naija Gossip, but it failed to credit or source 247 Naija Gossip. Making things worse, 247 Naija Gossip’s article also plagiarized from the original source of the article, News Biscuit.
“Also, the original post didn’t disclose that News Biscuit’s article was a satire piece. Tyson has not had a sex change operation. We regret the error.”
iMediaEthics has written to News Biscuit asking:
- Was News Biscuit surprised by how widespread the report became?
- How many hits did News Biscuit receive on that article?
- If News Biscuit was aware of SpyGhana’s lifting the News Biscuit story
We will update with any response.