What’s Current: Feminists around the world are pushing back against the New York Times’ pro-prostitution piece

Screen shot -- New York Times Magazine cover story.
Screen shot — New York Times Magazine cover story.

Executive Director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), Taina Bien-Aime, points to all the areas New York Times journalist, Emily Bazelon, could have and should have followed up on, in order to have fairly covered the issue of prostitution and decriminalization:

“Bazelon’s article generously highlights the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA), a pro-legalization advocacy network. What Bazelon fails to tell the Times‘ readers is that SWOP USA was founded by Robyn Few, who in 2002 was federally charged for promoting prostitution across state lines. Bazelon’s argument also heavily relies on Sweden’s Pye Jakobsson of the Rose Alliance and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects whose job was to recruit women for strip clubs. Margo St. James, whom the journalist equally spotlights, was convicted of pimping.

Bazelon could have verified her source’s quote about the police targeting landlords for possible prostitution on their premises in countries that only penalize sex buyers and not the prostituted. Detective Superintendent Kajsa Wahlberg, also the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings in Sweden, would have told Bazelon that in her eighteen years as National Rapporteur, she has never heard of a landlord in Sweden getting arrested on those charges. Wahlberg could have also added that a positive social development since their 1999 law is that the Swedes believe the purchase of sexual acts is a barrier to gender equality.”

Support SPACE International in calling out Bazelon’s bias in her New York Times pro-prostitution piece that was presented as neutral reporting.

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“Professor David Weisbrot is the Chair of the Australian Press Council. He has recently held consultations with journalists, domestic violence workers and survivors to develop a new advisory guideline for reporting on family violence… ‘It’s pretty irrelevant to the story, and you would never include information like that in a story about an alleged armed robber, or an alleged terrorist. Yet there is that tradition in a lot of family violence coverage,’ he said.

Including descriptions of a perpetrator’s good qualities is ethically unsound journalistic practice, according to Professor Denis Muller from the Centre for Advancing Journalism. ‘The ethical duty of a journalist is to consider the impact of what they write on all parties,’ he said.”

Susan Cox

Susan Cox is a feminist writer and academic living in the United States. She teaches in Philosophy.