The premise of the sensationalist clickbait article was simple: The Olympics are a “hotbed of partying athletes, hookups, and sex, Sex, SEX.”
So the reporter Nico Hines of The Daily Beast — a straight man who is married and has one child — headed to the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro seeking dates using various apps hook-up apps both gay and straight.
In a single hour he got 3 hook-up attempts on the gay sex app GRINDR and in an article published on Thursday went on to describe in detail the responses he received. No names were mentioned, but the article was so detailed, it might have been possible to guess the identities of the men he had contacted, and not all of them were from gay-friendly countries.
The story was quickly condemned on social media by LGBT and straight ally activists and athletes alike.
LGBTQ advocates, like Athlete Ally Executive Director Hudson Taylor, were infuriated by the article.
“Nico Hines’ article is as unethical as it is dangerous. There are over 200 athletes competing in the Olympics from countries for which being gay is punishable by death,” he told NBC.
“His failure to comprehend the impact of outing closeted athletes is both unacceptable and offensive. For many closeted athletes the internet may be the one place where they are able connect with LGBT culture and community safely,” Taylor added.
The Daily Beast’s editor in chief, John Avlon, said editors had removed details that might identify the athletes. He also responded to complaints that Mr. Hines’s original article mocked or shamed the athletes who responded to Mr. Hines’s overtures on Grindr.
“We do not feel he did this in any way,” he said.
Mr. Avlon said that Mr. Hines received more invitations on Grindr than on straight dating apps and that “he never claimed to be anyone he was not, did not offer anything to anyone, and immediately admitted that he was a journalist whenever he was asked who he was.”
But at 9 p.m., the article and the original editor’s note were gone, and replaced with a note describing how the organization took the “unprecedented but necessary step” of removing the entire article.
“Today we did not uphold a deep set of The Daily Beast’s values,” read a statement on the site. “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.
“We were wrong. We will do better.”
But will they? And will other news websites even gay ones like the Advocate and OUT? Will they stop posting sensationalist clickbait?
The writer Nico Hines was just part of the problem. The Daily Beast itself is really to blame for not vetting such a piece and seeing the problem in the first place. Especially since the Beast which was founded in 2008 is not a blog. It was part of of Newsweek for sometime and has 21 million unique visitors – a 60% year-over-year increase in readers, accompanied by a 300% increase in the overall size of its social media community. It is a legit news site that can afford to send “journalists” to the Olympic but cannot or will not properly vet his work.
Robert Drechsel, who held James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics and id the director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, described the article as “thoughtless, insensitive and unethical.”
He said it was good that the article had been removed but that it came too late.
“It’s hard to find the words to describe,” he said. “Why in the world — why in the world of journalism — would anyone do this?”
Three words clickbait, greed and revenue is the answer