The internet is not happy with The Daily Beast.
The news site published an article Thursday morning in which the author — a straight white married man and father — discussed his adventures conversing with male Olympic athletes on Grindr.
The reporter, Nico Hines, said he wrote the piece to test the rumors of whether the Olympic Village is “a hotbed of partying athletes, hookups, and sex, sex, sex.” On behalf of the “Average Joe” who wanted to “join the bacchanalia,” Hines conducted his research by downloading several hookup apps.
“No prizes for guessing that Grindr proved more of an instant hookup success than Bumble or Tinder,” wrote Hines, who went on to provide details of the men he chatted with on the gay app.
Criticism came quickly. In a piece titled “This Daily Beast Grindr Stunt Is Sleazy, Dangerous, and Wildly Unethical,” Slate LGBT issues writer Mark Joseph Stern branded it “a uniquely disgusting and irresponsible entry into the tired genre” of “Grindr-baiting,” a practice in which journalists engage with Grindr users for editorial reasons that differ with the app’s intent.
What makes Hines’s piece uniquely “dangerous,” Stern pointed out, is that the original version provided details like nationality and physical descriptions that could be used to out an athlete — a dangerous prospect indeed for competitors from anti-LGBT nations.
Olympian Gus Kenworthy also criticized this act of “entrapment.”
“So @NicoHines basically just outed a bunch of athletes in his quest to write a shitty @thedailybeast article where he admitted to entrapment,” tweeted the skier, who did not come out during the 2014 Sochi games due to Russia’s antigay laws and climate. At least one athlete referenced in Hines's article had been closeted, reports Attitude.
The Daily Beast has since revised the article to omit descriptions of athletes that might reveal their identity. A look at the URL suggests the title has also been changed. It is currently "The Other Olympic Sport in Rio: Swiping," while the HTML reads, "i-got-three-grindr-dates-in-an-hour-in-the-olympic-village.html."
“[Outing] was never our reporter’s intention, of course,” wrote Daily Beast editor in chief John Avlon in an editor’s note, adding, “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.”
“Some readers have read Nico as mocking or sex-shaming those on Grindr,” Avlon continued. “We do not feel he did this in any way. But it’s up to us to deliver stories that are so clear, they can’t be misinterpreted — and we clearly fell short of that standard in this article.”
In addition to outing and sex-shaming, however, Hines is guilty of an invasion of privacy. In the article, he claimed, “I didn’t lie to anyone or pretend to be someone I wasn’t — unless you count being on Grindr in the first place — since I’m straight, with a wife and child. I used my own picture (just of my face…) and confessed to being a journalist as soon as anyone asked who I was.”
As Stern points out, this statement from Hines is an admission of ignorance of what it means to be on Grindr — particularly when one’s status as an outsider or journalist is not listed in one’s profile.
“Of course being on Grindr in the first place is a lie,” Stern wrote. “Grindr is an app for men who wish to hook up with other men. That is its purpose! To be on Grindr when you do not have that goal, and when you could not possibly have that goal because you are straight, is itself a mendacious deception.”
Grindr may not be a physical space where one needs a press pass to access. But it should be treated as such, particularly when careers and lives are on the line.