The Daily Beast on Thursday published a piece in which a reporter, Nico Hines, stood outside the Olympic Village in Rio and swiped on various hook-up/dating apps to see what he could learn about Olympian sex-searchers.
The story was going to be provocative regardless — that seems like kind of the point — but it ended up pretty clearly crossing a line when the writer started discussing his experience on Grindr, an app specifically designed for same-sex hook-ups.
More than half the piece focused on the experience Hines, a straight man with a wife, had on Grindr. Though the article didn’t identify any athletes by name, the original version included details like stats and nationalities that could have been used to out the Grindr users. Meanwhile the Daily Beast’s original headline, “I Got Three Grindr Dates in an Hour at the Olympic Village,” seemed to sensationalize homosexuality.
Aaaaaaand now the Daily Beast has changed the title to something less, um, homophobic maybe? pic.twitter.com/ggxBNgE4Xa
— Zach Stafford (@ZachStafford) August 11, 2016
The story has since been updated with a new headline and without some of the most outright identifying information. Here’s a representative passage from the updated version:
There were dozens of eligible bachelors listed on Grindr within a few hundred yards of where I was standing at the entrance to the athletes’ village. One posed in his full team kit. Others referred to their elite sporting status more furtively, but they included one of the world’s top equestrians and a track and field athlete a few days away from competing.
One Olympian wanted to commiserate over his sixth-place finish. Another had very different things on his mind: “In village ready for action! Let’s make an athletes orgy!” he wrote in his profile.
Even post-update, the piece has caused a good deal of fury.
Unless queer outing is now an Olympic sport, can we just all agree that @NicoHines piece is outright homophobia? Needs to be withdrawn.
— Joshua Dixon (@JoshDixonTweets) August 11, 2016
These hookup apps exist to protect us from YOU. We have to hide, in plain sight, because you still don't get it, or us.
— The Guyliner (@theguyliner) August 11, 2016
— Nick Coveney (@nmjcoveney) August 11, 2016
PITCH TO EDITOR: I stand outside the Daily Beast's office and send them all saucy messages via dating apps
— Martin Belam (@MartinBelam) August 11, 2016
Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon tacked on a note to the bottom of the piece responding to critics.
Editor’s Note: A number of readers complained to The Daily Beast after the publication of the original iteration of this story. We take such complaints seriously because a central part of The Daily Beast’s mission is to fight for full equality and equal treatment for LGBT people around the world. Publishing an article that in any way could be seen as homophobic is contrary to our mission.
The concept for the piece was to see how dating and hook-up apps were being used in Rio by athletes. It just so happened that Nico had many more responses on Grindr than apps that cater mostly to straight people, and so he wrote about that. Had he received straight invitations, he would have written about those. 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.
Some readers have read Nico as mocking or sex-shaming those on Grindr. We do not feel he did this in any way. However, The Daily Beast understands that others may have interpreted the piece differently.
Accordingly, we have made some editorial changes to the article, responding to readers’ concerns, and are again sorry for any upset the original version of this piece inspired.
— John Avlon, Editor in Chief
This controversy is similar to (though maybe slightly more benign than) the one Gawker faced last summer after it published an article apparently outing a married magazine executive. Gawker chose to take down the post, leading to the resignation of several top editors.
Awful Announcing has reached out to The Daily Beast for additional comment and will update this post if we hear back.