Nicholas Kristof Calls for a Boycott of Village Voice Media, Ctd.

A commenter to my earlier post links to Village Voice Media’s response to Nicholas Kristof’s Times article about how VVM’s profits from human trafficking. The VVM article is headlined “What Nick Kristof Got Wrong.” Kristof used a victim to illustrate his story. A video that accompanied Kristof’s story ran with a headline that said the victim was 16 when she was sold on VVM points out that according to the victim’s own court testimony, she was 16 in 2003 — before even existed.

Ouch. Sounds like Kristof really blew that one. An apology is in order.

Not so fast. Here’s his response to their response:

In fact, Alissa turned 16 at the end of 2004. All during 2004, she was 16 years old, traveling up and down the east coast being pimped. Backpage operated in at least 11 cities during 2004, including Miami and Fort Lauderdale, both of them cities Alissa where says she was pimped on Backpage. Then at 17, as Backpage expanded to 30 cities including Boston, she was pimped even more broadly on Backpage — and also in Village Voice print ads, she says.

It’s interesting to me that the VVM story carries a generic Village Voice Media byline. Could they not find a single reporter in their entire chain who was willing to put his name on a story that shows slipshod reporting by a New York Times writer? Usually that’s the sort of story that goes into the clip file, something a reporter would be proud of. In this case, we appear to be looking at something else altogether.


  • amanda

    Tim, since you brought it up…can you please discuss the policy of “The Met” on sexually oriented ads? Or in general? Did you put your name on those?

  • Neal

    Wait. A media organization doing the same kind of self-righteous spin that they wouldn’t tolerate from the people they cover? Preposterous!

  • @amanda: Did I put my name on the sexually oriented ads? No, I did not. But I like where your head is at.

    (If I recall, The Met launched without taking topless bar ads. I assume there were no sexually oriented classifieds, either, but I’d have to go back and look at an old issue to be sure. Then, at some later point, The Met DID accept topless bar ads. Again, can’t recall classifieds policy.)

  • RAB

    I think The Met wised up and opened the floodgates to sexually oriented classifieds at the end there (or, to be more precise, the end before the Washburne end before the Goss end before the final Observer end). I could be wrong, though, because I only read the “Mr. Funny Guy” column — and the letters to the editor.

  • amanda

    @ Tim…great that you like where my head is at. It ain’t in your lap, k?

    My greater point is that in order to survive, most city mags, weeklys, etc. have taken ads that were at best, questionable. This gets to the very core of most of the slings and arrows directed at D’s face…editorial vs. ads. Whereas no reasonable person supports what is at the center of the VVM controversy? D, and others will churn out some ads that, down the road…are suspect, right? (You need me to go there with JUST your magazine, b/c I can.)

    No, Tim, you didn’t put your name on the sexually oriented ads at “The Met.” Although it launched without topless ads, we are greeted with 4 x 6 poster of a bikini clad model upon entering your office, or at least we were…I haven’t been to the new offices. I bet that was super awesome for the women employed at D. I guess you can fly under the radar of the feds and TCHR,. “The Met” launched with a larger message…sexism wasn’t just for the back page, it was embraced openly on every page. Wanna fail? Try launching a magazine with some funny content that pisses off 51% of the world’s population. Welcome to D, where we can work our way up to the kind content that eventually leaves the magazine with the content it’s got. Oh, I don’t care for me…a new crop of freelancers will pitch you and get the pithy kind of responses that make us all in some way the girl on the first cover of “The Met.”

    Well played, sir. And before you get all up in VVM’s grill? Pot, meet kettle. And, let’s here from the “girls” at D.

  • amanda

    I did mean to say “hear” rather than “here.” Sorry, I need a better editor, obviously.

  • @Amanda: I’m not sure where to begin, so I’ll begin here: your copy read like your comment above. Which is to say, unpolished. If you didn’t enjoy the editing process, you were at least partly to blame.

    And I’m sorry you didn’t like the way my office was decorated. That Met cover with the woman in the bikini reminded me of a wonderfully fun time in my early career. If you were offended by it, I suggest you stay out of grocery stores and airports and anywhere else magazines are sold.

  • This is the weird part about this dispute: both parties are right, and both parties are wrong. (I worked for VVM for four years, and wrote about the prostitutes in Florida who advertised on Backpage as well as Craigslist when they still did that.) Kristoff is right when he says pimps use Backpage to peddle victims of human trafficking. Even VVM agrees with this, though they say that no more than seven percent of the prostitutes are underage. But VVM is right when they point out that, without online advertising, prostitutes are much more likely to end up on the street, and that is much more dangerous for everyone. There is an argument VVM could make about the advertisements in the NYT too: ads for oil companies and drug companies that certainly wreak havoc on the lives of some people. But so far, that’s not the route they’ve taken.

  • amanda

    Just don’t throw stones at VVM…I don’t like the sexual ads, either , but you’ve worked/owned/managed at least 2 publications that “needed” sex to survive. Sorry to b-itch about my spelling, etc. My browser has bird flu or something.

    And, you can’t shrug and say, “That was something that reminded me of a time in my life…” Live those memories elsewhere…especially if you are going to hold VVM to a standard about their sexual content.

    If you want to “discuss” VVM, everyone has to live up to the same standard, across the board. No exceptions.

  • mynameisbill

    This is why prostitution should be legalized. If it were legal then these women and men could go to the police and get help. Removing the ads from a rag isn’t gonna change the status of young women/men being taken advantage of….but legalizing the act will give the victim an ability to seek justice.

  • Mary

    Ads are not sexually abused, trafficked, coerced, addicted victims, amanda. I object to the constant objectification of women but let’s not be silly.

    These ads for the sale of sex aid human traffickers. They cater to the lowest of the low, at the expense of some of the most helpless. They are several orders of magnitude worse than objectifying ads and posters.

    And no, Bill, this is not why the sale of sex should be legalized. This is why buying sex should be criminalized. It’s called the Scandinavian model. It works, and it’s spreading, so please warm yourself up to the idea now.

    Society is evolving. Finally.