The sleazy feature story from the Daily Beast’s Nico Hines was about how Olympic athletes were hooking up for hot, sweaty, muscle sex in Rio. Hines writes…
“Perhaps the question most people have is: How do the rest of us get an invite? Can an Average Joe join the bacchanalia?”
That’s right: that’s what most people think about when they watch the Olympics. Good lord. The creep continues:
After 60 minutes in the Olympic Village on Tuesday evening, I’m surprised to say that the answer is “yes.”Armed with a range of dating and hookup apps—Bumble, Grindr, Jack’d, and Tinder—your distinctly non-Olympian correspondent had scored three dates in the first hour. Athlete profiles on the various apps during my short exploration included a track star, a volleyball player, a record-holder in the pool, a sailor, a diver, and a handball player.
There is one teeny ethics problem. Well, several. The obvious one is that he wasn’t looking for real dates, just trying to see if he could attract some. That’s deception. It is an obvious Golden Rule breach, as well as misconduct in any other ethical system. It is like advertising a job opening to write a story about how many desperate unemployed people apply for job openings. How dead do your ethics alarms have to be not to instantly understand this? Well, as dead as Nico’s and the Daily Beast’s, I suppose.
Here’s the smoking gun quote:
For the record, 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.
Isn’t that great? Nico didn’t lie, except to suggest that he was looking for sex when he wasn’t, or pretend to be someone he wasn’t, other than pretending to be gay by the very fact of posting on Grindr, a gay social media site that exists so gay men can find other gay men seeking hook-ups.
Let’s play a game: what would this be like using another context? Be original: let’s leave out Hillary saying, “I didn’t lie,—unless you count saying that I did nothing wrong, turned over all appropriate e-mails to the State Department, insisting that I never handled classified material, and saying that the FBI confirmed that I was telling the truth.” I’m sure there are funnier ones.
Nico’s actual lie, however, isn’t funny. Of course he didn’t reveal that he was a journalist in his profiles: that would have risked getting “dates.” Withholding essential information in order to deceive is also a lie. Somebody tell Nico.
What a surprise: a new media journalist who doesn’t know what lying is!
Slate found an even worse aspect of Nico’s disgusting “scoop,” one that I was too late to the party to see. Apparently in the original version posted on The Daily Beast, Hines essentially outed several closeted athletes who represent homophobic countries by revealing enough details about them to get the athletes in trouble. After Slate’s gay issues critic, Mark Joseph Stern, made his objections known, The Daily Beast re-edited the original story—before I got to it—to eliminate any details that may have outed gay athletes. As Stern says, too little, too late.
Then Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon—who approves of this kind of misrepresentation for career advancement, since he falsely posed for years as a non-partisan independent to sell a book and try to neutralize conservatives by branding them (objectively, of course) as “wingnuts” until he outed himself as a typical media liberal by accepting his current position—issued this semi-mea culpa:
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.
There was legitimate concern that the original version of this story might out gay male athletes, even by implication, or compromise their safety. This was never our reporter’s intention, of course. No names were ever used and some of the profiles described were of straight women. But there was a concern that even mentioning the home nation of some gay athletes could compromise their safety. We apologize for potentially jeopardizing that safety in any way. As a result, we have removed all descriptions of the men and women’s profiles that we previously described.
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. 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.
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
Wait, John…John! Come back! What about the lying, John? The pure deception that made the article possible…aren’t you going to address that?
No, Avlon doesn’t address that, because The Daily Beast has no ethical bearings. All it does is respond to constituency complaints. Nico lies on social media to lure athletes looking for sex to reveal themselves, and to John Avlon that’s not even worth apologizing for, because the end justifies the means….and the end is getting clicks. That’s all.
Since the days of Nellie Bly, journalism ethics codes have condemned undercover, false identity reporting, unless there is no other way to acquire the facts and convey the truth to the public in an important story. Hines’s story isn’t exposing corruption in high places, however, exposing violations of law, or human rights outrages. This is a slimy, inconsequential bit of prurient material that nobody has a “need to know”: how do horny Olympic athletes find sex partners, threesomes or orgies in Rio. Who cares? Those who do care and are not the anxious significant others of Olympic athletes have something wrong with them.
What we should care about is the disgusting lack of ethical values and professionalism on the part of reporters like Hines, his editor, Avlon, and the Daily Beast.
We should also worry about a culture—ours— where a writer can reveal his unethical tactics, believe nobody will find them inappropriate, and be, for the vast number of readers, correct. That may be the most worrisome of all.
UPDATE: Apparently complaints from LGBT activists got too hot to ignore, so the Daily Beast pulled the whole post. They still didn’t acknowledge that the reporter’s approach was dishonest and unethical.