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Nicholas Kristof Sex-Trafficking Op-Ed Takes On Village Voice Media And Backpage.com

Posted: 03/21/2012 3:12 pm Updated: 03/21/2012 3:12 pm

Nicholas Kristof

New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof reignited his war against Village Voice Media with a new editorial, "Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods," this time with a former victim of sex-trafficking who had equally harsh words for the media company.

Alissa, using her street name, pointed to a scar on her cheek after being hit by a pimp and explained to Kristof, "You can’t buy a child at Wal-Mart, can you? No, but you can go to Backpage and buy me on Backpage."

Kristof continued to blast Village Voice for enabling sex-trafficking owning Backpage's online classifieds which sell a wide range of items, and according to Kristof "accounts for 70 percent of prostitution advertising among five Web sites."

Backstage, which is owned by Village Voice, reportedly rakes in an astounding $22 million from such ads.

Village Voice has taken to their own paper to counter Kristof's scathing editorial with "What Nick Kristof Got Wrong: Village Voice Media Responds." They defend:

A video that accompanied his online op-ed was headlined: "Age 16, She Was Sold on Backpage.com"That is not true. According to Alissa's court testimony, she was 16 in 2003. Backpage.com did not exist anywhere in America in 2003...Had Kristof followed any of The New York Times' standards of journalism, he would have known this. He could have read the court transcripts. He could have read the testimony of A.G. (the victim)....Neglecting to do any of the above, Kristof could still have asked us. Kristof's uninformed crusade would drive victims back to the shadows, back to the streets that Alissa fled.

On Wednesday, Kristof lashed back:

It’s interesting that Village Voice doesn’t dispute anything in my column or the accompanying video, but only the online blurb for the video. In fact, Alissa turned 16 at the end of 2003. (note: earlier on this blog I had a typo saying 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...I’m frankly a bit surprised that Village Voice is even trying to deny its role. Attorneys General around the country have linked Backpage to arrests for trafficking of underage girls in 22 different states...C’mon, Village Voice, does an an alternative newspaper really want to represent the greediest kind of exploitation?

In November, several protestors from organizations including The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women rallied outside Village Voice headquarters to shutdown Backstage.

Village Voice's blog Runnin' Scared ran a brief post on the protest and included a memo that was circulated to staffers asking employees to support the "First Amendment rights" of Backstage users. Back in January, legal counsel for the company similarly defended Backstage and claimed demands to shut down operations would be an act of "censorship."

The Voice also lashed out at public critic Ashton Kutcher, who led a similar charge against the Voice, with the headline "Real Men Get Their Facts Straight."

Watch a video on the controversy below:

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Filed by Inae Oh  |