It’s a really hard time for newspapers of all kinds. This is the Voice‘s business model and I hate to undermine it. But for anybody who loves journalism: How can you fund that journalism with sex trafficking?
Nicholas Kristof, NY Times op-ed columnist.
Kristof recently published two columns (January 25 and March 17) criticizing online classifieds, especially Backpage.com, for their adult services section as a vehicle for pimps trying to sell girls. Backpage.com is owned by Village Voice Media, and in line with past criticism against sex ads on Backpage.com, Village Voice responded with criticism of Kristof’s fact-checking. In reality, can they afford to eliminate these Backpage.com ads?
Backpage.com rakes in $22 M. annually from prostitution advertising, according to media analysts at AIM. Backpage.com reportedly accounts for one-seventh of VVM’s revenue overall.
(full story via The New York Observer)
The paradox in this story is what Village Voice actually stands for. Kristof writes:
Village Voice began as an alternative newspaper to speak truth to power. It publishes some superb journalism. So it’s sad to see it accept business from pimps in the greediest and most depraved kind of exploitation.
His columns are a call to action:
True, many prostitution ads on Backpage are placed by adult women acting on their own without coercion; they’re not my concern. Other ads are placed by pimps: the Brooklyn district attorney’s office says that the great majority of the sex trafficking cases it prosecutes involve girls marketed on Backpage.
There are no simple solutions to end sex trafficking, but it would help to have public pressure on Village Voice Media to stop carrying prostitution advertising. The Film Forum has already announced that it will stop buying ads in The Village Voice. About 100 advertisers have dropped Rush Limbaugh’s radio show because of his demeaning remarks about women. Isn’t it infinitely more insulting to provide a forum for the sale of women and girls?
One of the biggest complaints readers have about my work is that I don’t tell them often enough what they can do. I do think this is an area where journalism sometimes falls short. We describe a really grim situation but don’t really explain to people what they can do about it. So, a few years ago I started doing a year-end list of amazing charities. The first time, I had real anxiety about whether it was appropriate. But the response was so overwhelming, it seemed to be a real service to readers and I’ve continued to do it. It also happens when I’m not especially encouraging people to give. For instance, a few months ago I profiled a group called Room to Read and I later learned they raised $700,000 as a result of people hearing about them from my column.