New York Observer media reporter Kat Stoeffel reported that Village Voice Media was drawing a huge amount of revenue — by some estimations $2.1 million — from escort ads on its classifieds site Backpage.com, even when organizations like Craigslist had shut down their erotic services sections due to lawsuits regarding child prostitution and trafficking.
Let’s just say this story went over somewhat badly with Village Voice Media. Terribly, in fact. Executive editor Mike Lacey wrote a long, invective-filled response to the Observer today, sounding near apoplectic with rage. Every other sentence contained an insult for Stoeffel. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here are some highlights:
Stoeffel is the overly powdered aunt that haunts family holidays. At dinner, she’s left her teeth in a glass of water on the bedside table. She’d like to chew your goose. But she’s left to gum your bird while forgetting the grandkid’s names.
Admittedly, we’re not entirely sure what he’s getting at there. But let’s continue:
Because she is neither competent nor engaging she should not be allowed to discuss religion or politics, let alone sex and journalism.
And that’s just how it begins!
About the escort ads, Lacey goes on to say that:
The Village Voice carried adult advertising for decades before the Internet; the web, Craigslist, and Backpage have merely caught up with America’s original alternative newspaper…
So we guess they aren’t ashamed about it. However, Lacey does note that “in just the past few months Backpage.com has spent millions of dollars policing content to attempt, for example, to keep underage kids out of adult listings.”
His email goes on to address a litany of facts mentioned by Stoeffel in her piece. Not to be outdone, Stoeffel issued this response:
When he wasn’t describing me as someone’s senile, toothless auntie, he made a few criticisms that merit clarification.
Monitoring photos for nudity protects Backpage from lawsuits… Unfortunately, it does nothing to protect young women who are trafficked over Backpage… The millions of dollars VVM has spent to police the site do not appear to have been sufficient, given the ongoing parade of stories of abuse and trafficking. Like this one today.
We give credit to Stoeffel for countering Lacey’s points with a degree of good humor (she called her response “A Peptic Response from the Powdered Aunt”), considering the personally insulting email sent by Lacey. Clearly, Lacey disagrees with the way Stoeffel’s story was framed. Nonetheless, the ill effects of adult services advertisements over the web is an important topic, and deserves to be reported on more often in the media.
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