By David Milberg, New York City based Entrepreneur and Investor
American-based news and commentary site The Daily Beast is under intense fire for “accidentally” outing homosexual Olympic athletes in an article and follow-up apology tweets.
While the article didn’t specifically drop any names, the context and content made it fairly simple for most readers to figure out who they were talking about. There’s no doubt this sort of thing is an invasion of privacy. Par for the course if you’re a tabloid, but a bad misstep if you want to be taken seriously for journalism.
After a firestorm of internet rage responded to the post, TDB took it down and shot out an apology via Twitter. That’s when people really started paying attention, and, of course, even though the article was “deleted” it was still available online for those interested in looking.
Yes, TDB was right to apologize. But you can’t put cracked eggs back in the shell, and the series of apology tweets are just putting more eyes on the story. It’s an important line to draw. The consequences of being an “out” gay vary greatly across the globe. For some, it’s no big deal, for others, maybe mild embarrassment. There are some places, though, where being an open homosexual can have fatal consequences. Critics say there is simply no excuse for putting people at that sort of risk.
After people in and out of various Olympic teams came down hard on The Daily Beast, the Society of Professional Journalists dropped the hammer, saying, in a stinging rebuke, the story had “no place in a modern media organization…”
For years now hardline extremists in the gay community have debated public outing of closeted gays. They believe it will be good for the movement. A philosophy they tend to share with those who would “out” similarly a closeted atheist – for similar reasons. But the bottom line in this is the issue of privacy. Is The Daily Beast trying to be the New York Times or the National Enquirer? What’s their goal and their audience?
The stories you run define your market. Yes, lines are increasingly blurred in the digital age when click-bait feels almost necessary for a site to remain relevant, but blurry doesn’t mean non-existent. The Daily Beast is working very hard to be seen as a legitimate news provider during this political season. With this scandal, they’ve taken a step back from serious consideration.