This week’s Village Voice cover story is an installment in an ongoing investigative series The Truth Behind Sex Trafficking, which aims to debunk alarmist and overblown statistics about prostitution.
The article (by Kristen Hinman who was a longtime writer for other VVM publications) posits that underage prostitution does exist, tragically, but it’s largely conducted voluntarily and independently, contrary to the archetype of the young girl manipulated by a nolder pimp. That misconception, she argues, distracts policymakers from the more meaningful task of lifting child prostitutes–many of whom are boys and transsexuals, she notes–out of the cycle of homelessness and poverty that led them to it.
It includes a plea to write to Senator John Cornyn and Senator Ron Wyden in support of a bill they’ve authored that would provide federal money for shelters for victims of underage prostitition.
The Village Voice‘s skin in this game is disclosed: That stereotypical form of prostitution sometimes transpires over Backpage.com, the online classifieds site owned by Village Voice parent company Village Voice Media (VVM).
The arguments in defense of Backpage.com are significant. As David Carr pointed out in his column Monday, it’s a First Amendment issue, and if it is shut it down, the business would just pop up somewhere else. Backpage.com benefited from this phenomenon when Craigslist’s erotic services section was shuttered.
Mr. Carr concludes that this amounts to a “principled stand, and just because it aligns with their business interests doesn’t mean it isn’t valid,” but he never addresses VVM’s editorial campaign. Is journalism that aligns with their business interests still valid?