Trash. Unethical. Dangerous. Those are just three words used to describe an article from The Daily Beast last week outing closeted gay athletes in Rio at the Olympics.
The Daily Beast reporter, Nico Hines, a straight married man with a child, logged onto Grindr, and other apps, in the Olympic Village in an attempt to write a story about athletes using hook up apps at the Olympics. In the story he claimed to have gotten a better response on the gay apps so naturally the story focused mostly on the gay and bisexual men he chatted with and met.
“The Daily Beast sent a reporter to cover the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Instead of a story on the numerous important issues affecting the region, the website decided to publish a report that is journalistic trash, unethical and dangerous,” wrote Andrew Seaman, the Society of Professional Journalist’s ethics chair. “There are several major ethical issues with the story, including the fact that this type of reporting is dangerous and can cause needless harm. For example, many Olympic athletes come from countries where being gay or bisexual is – in some way – punishable by law. Furthermore, some athletes may not be in a position in their personal lives to reveal their sexual orientation.”
Despite not actually naming the athletes in question, LGBT organizations and activists immediately condemned the article.
Less than 12 hours later the story pulled from the website.
Critics pointed out that even though the story did not include names it did include enough descriptors for people to figure out who they are.
After the initial wave of criticism The Daily Beast responded by editing out the descriptive details while also providing a lengthy editor's note defending the intent of the story.
“[They]… published an exceedingly gross and bizarre article by a straight, married male writer who lured in gay Olympians through hookup apps for no particular purpose. The entire piece is an astoundingly creepy exercise in Grindr-baiting, which involves a journalist accessing Grindr in an unlikely setting and … seeing what happens,” wrote Mark Joseph Stern for Slate. “But the offensive purpose of Hines’ article is really the least of its problems. Far worse is the actual damage it will likely cause to real, live human beings—inevitable consequences that Hines blithely ignored.”
After the story was taken down, the media outlet published an apology letter.
"Our initial reaction was that the entire removal of the piece was not necessary," the letter stated. "We were wrong. We’re sorry. And we apologize to the athletes who may have been inadvertently compromised by our story."
The Daily Beast made it clear they did not want to blame the "sole individual" responsible for writing the piece — instead, they claimed the incident "was a failure on The Daily Beast as a whole."
"Today we did not uphold a deep set of The Daily Beast’s values. These values—which include standing up to bullies and bigots, and specifically being a proudly, steadfastly supportive voice for LGBT people all over the world—are core to our commitment to journalism and to our commitment to serving our readers."
They closed their note with a simple message.
"We were wrong. We will do better."
For many, the apology was not enough. World OutGames released a statement condemning the "gay witch-hunt" and subsequent actions of The Daily Beast.
"The piece written by Nico Hines is a shameful example of the everyday struggles faced by LGBT athletes and individuals from all over the world," the statement read. "There was no point to the story other than to drive web traffic to The Daily Beast’s website at the expense of shaming and endangering the lives of the gay athletes he outed."
World Outgames Miami promises a safe environment for LGBT athletes to compete. They also encourage contacting The Daily Beast and Nico Hines to condemn their actions.
SPJ’s Seaman wrote a follow up blog post after the apology was published criticizing it as well.
“First, the athletes who were possibly reported as gay or bisexual were not ‘inadvertently compromised.’ The Daily Beast and its reporter Nico Hines deliberately set up fake dates with athletes in the Olympic village for the story. Second, news consumers are getting tired of news organizations failing, shrugging and saying they’ll do better next time. Instead of offering empty words and promises, news organizations need to explain what went wrong with the initial story and how editors plan to prevent similar mistakes in the future.”
The Full Apology
A Note From the Editors
Today, The Daily Beast took an unprecedented but necessary step: We are removing an article from our site, “The Other Olympic Sport In Rio: Swiping.”
The Daily Beast does not do this lightly. As shared in our editor’s note earlier today, we initially thought swift removal of any identifying characteristics and better clarification of our intent was the adequate way to address this. Our initial reaction was that the entire removal of the piece was not necessary. We were wrong. We’re sorry. And we apologize to the athletes who may have been inadvertently compromised by our story.
Today we did not uphold a deep set of The Daily Beast’s values. These values—which include standing up to bullies and bigots, and specifically being a proudly, steadfastly supportive voice for LGBT people all over the world—are core to our commitment to journalism and to our commitment to serving our readers.
As a newsroom, we succeed together and we fail together, and this was a failure on The Daily Beast as a whole, not a single individual. The article was not intended to do harm or degrade members of the LGBT community, but intent doesn’t matter, impact does. Our hope is that removing an article that is in conflict with both our values and what we aspire to as journalists will demonstrate how seriously we take our error.
We were wrong. We will do better.