The numbers are horrifying, staggering. Media outlets all over the country have repeated them ad nauseam: "100,000 to 300,000" children are at risk for being dragooned into sexual bondage in the United States each year. Each year! It beggars the imagination. Problem is, imagination is about all that number is based on. As a recent article in Village Voice Media's series on sex trafficking has already demonstrated, that number isn't derived from anything resembling hard statistics.
And yet it is just that number that many in the media have used as a cudgel against other media outlets that carry adult advertising. One of the leading crusaders against this nonexistent epidemic has been Amber Lyon of CNN, who, after helping shame Craigslist out of the adult-ad business, has now found another target: Backpage.com, the online classified site owned by Village Voice Media, parent company of OC Weekly.
In a column that appeared in this week's print edition of the Weekly, Tony Ortega, editor of our NYC sister paper The Village Voice, points out that Lyon's shortcomings as a journalist go beyond basing incendiary reports on bogus numbers. Indeed, it seems that, in her zeal to put a stop to this imaginary scourge, she has gotten a bit too close to one of her main sources.
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