Seattle Weekly Part of Village Voice Media Sale That Has Online Pimps Asking, “What Next?”
Seattle Weekly is under new…old…management this morning. A story-slash-press-release on the weekly’s site explains: “A group of senior managers from Village Voice Media Holdings has acquired Seattle Weekly and its sister papers, launching anew under the name Voice Media Group. The classified advertising site Backpage.com will not be part of the new company.”
Backpage.com and its alleged use as a child-prostitution accelerant has been an ongoing headache for the newspapers–the majority of whom have chosen to highlight their separation from the classifieds site in their headlines announcing the sale.
It’s presumably less thrilling to win a “Best of Seattle” nomination from the same publication that’s been linked with 18 child prostitution cases in King County Superior Court; nor could that have helped with advertising sales, outside of pimps who hadn’t read how the Weekly intended to police them while taking their money.
As of August, when the news broke that longtime reporter Rick Anderson had been shown the door at Seattle Weekly, editor Mike Seely said the newspaper had eleven full-time “or very close to it” editorial staff .
Anderson, for his part, noted that VVM management seemed to be letting go of its more highly paid veterans as part of a cost-cutting move–Seely all but confirmed this, in adding that Anderson would still be writing freelance features.
Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin will retain ownership of Backpage, while divesting themselves of the newspapers. As they explain, their refusal to verify legal age is purely about free speech: “[O]ur publishing business covers thirteen cities and nine states; Backpage spans 600 cities and contemplated expansion envisions business in more than two dozen countries.”
Gothamist has more on the intersection of free speech and commerce, including this market-competition analysis from a former juvenile prostitute:
“You can’t buy a child at Wal-Mart, can you?” she asked the Times in March. “No, but you can go to Backpage and buy me on Backpage.”
Forbes reports that former chief operating officer Scott Tobias (who started in sales in 1993) will be the new VMG CEO. “Joining him on the new management team are Christine Brennan, who will serve as executive editor across the company, and Jeff Mars, who becomes chief financial officer,” says Jeff Bercovici.