The independent Manhattan movie house Film Forum has decided to pull its advertising from the Village Voice, citing concerns about Backpage.com, the classifieds site owned by Voice parent company Village Voice Media.
Longtime Film Forum director Karen Cooper told Off the Record that Nicholas Kristof’s Friday op-ed in The New York Times prompted her decision.
“It really held Backpage.com accountable for underage prostitution,” she said.
In it Mr. Kristof described a 13-year-old Brooklyn runaway coerced into prostitution and sold over Backpage.com, whom he called “Babyface,” and called for Backpage.com to close its Adult section, as Craigslist did in 2010.
Given Film Forum’s eagerness to show the shows films that depict the tragedies of human trafficking, Ms. Cooper explained, “it would be a hypocrisy to continue advertising.”
The nonprofit cinema has advertised in the Village Voice since at least 1971.
In July, Ashton Kutcher used Twitter to publicly pressure other Voice advertisers, including American Airlines, Domino’s Pizza and Disney, to withdraw from the alt-weekly. In one of a series of editorial articles defending Backpage.com, the Voice had written that statistics distributed by Mr. Kutcher’s sex trafficking awareness group, Real Men Don’t Buy Girls, were incorrect. Mr. Kutcher later announced that American Airlines had pulled its advertising, though the company never confirmed it.
A group of attorneys general has also sent letters to Village Voice Media calling for Backpage.com’s adult serivces to be shut down. Others, including clergy members and Village Voice co-founder Norman Mailer’s son, John Buffalo Mailer, have spoken out against the website through Groundswell, a social justice organization backed by the Presbyterian Auburn Theological Seminary.
The Voice did not immediately respond to request for comment. In a public response to the attorneys general, however, Village Voice Media has said that censorship is not the solution to human trafficking, and that the company effectively monitors the escort listings.
On an unrelated note, Ms. Cooper added that she was disappointed that longtime Voice film critic Jim Hoberman was laid off earlier this month.