Two more: Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 'High Times' pull Village Voice Media ads due to Backpage.com controversy
At least two more advertisers have pulled their business from Village Voice Media, citing concerns over the company's classified website, Backpage.com, which has come under fire for allegedly providing a forum in which underage girls can be sold into prostitution.
The Tribeca Performing Arts Center, which is run under the auspices of CUNY's Borough of Manhattan Community College, will no longer advertise with the company's namesake paper, The Village Voice, after this week. And Trans High Corporation, the parent company of High Times magazine, announced in a press release on Tuesday that it would "discontinue any advertising or promotional relationship with Village Voice Media due to their continued financial stake in Backpage.com."
Linda Herring, Tribeca's executive director, told Capital she was alerted to the controversy surrounding Backpage.com last week. Around the same time, a blog post appeared on the website Village Voice Pimps, which churns out critical Backpage coverage, encouraging readers to "send a message to Village Voice's big name advertisers." Those also include Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and various other powerful companies and organizations.
"I didn't know this was going on," said Herring, who read up on the Backpage controversy, including two recent pieces by New York Times columnist Nick Krisof.
Kristof's articles detailed the plights of anonymous teenage girls allegedly trafficked on Backpage.com by pimps, whom they said also abused them. One of the articles prompted another Manhattan cultural institution, the indie moviehouse FilmForum, to pull its advertising from The Voice back in January.
Herring said Tribeca has advertised with the paper for at least the past 15 years. Most recently, it had purchased a monthly placement that would run at a quarter- to a half-page, through she declined to say how much it cost.
Pressure has been mounting on Village Voice Media to shut down the adult services section of Backpage.com, a cause that has been taken up by a handful of City Council members, 19 U.S. senators, 51 attorneys general and hundreds of thousands of people who have signed an online petition at Change.org, as well as Hollywood celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.
The company, so far, hasn't budged.
"The realities and complexity of human trafficking and sexual exploitation are such that to announce that a single website—Backpage.com or other—is the primary source of the scourge and therefore holds the cure to this horrendous problem is not only unsupported but irresponsible," Liz McDougall, general counsel for Village Voice Media, told Capital last month in response to a rally outside the Cooper Square offices of The Voice, during which a son of the paper's co-founder, the late Norman Mailer, condemned Backpage. (Mailer is a former editor of High Times.)
"Backpage.com of course hears the protesters and listens to the politicians," said McDougall. "We all agree that we have to raise awareness and do more to fight human trafficking, especially child sex trafficking, domestically as well as internationally. The pursuit of even the most laudable goals does not however presuppose agreement on how best to get there."
McDougall did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Backpage.com's adult ads reportedly generate $23.9 million in yearly revenue for Village Voice Media, which also owns a chain of alt-weeklies around the country.