CNN's Amber B. Lyin', Reporting: How TV's Most Trusted Cable News Outlet* Got Played

Categories: Politics

lyon.jpg
Amber Lyon: "My scarf has better sources than Wolf Blitzer."
Over the last several months, reporters here and at some of our sister papers have published stories about the mythical child-sex-trafficking pandemic allegedly sweeping our nation. Prodded by activist researchers and research-adverse activists, the media has obsessively repeated bogus claims that hundreds of thousands of children are being held in bondage in the backs of vans and strip clubs right here in our cities. Bottom line: If you haven't spent the last several months gasping, you're not watching enough cable.

The reality is much less frightening. Law enforcement agencies local and national, including task forces devoted solely to this issue, turn up very few cases of child sex trafficking. According to our reporting, those agencies handle only 800 or so child-prostitution cases every year, less than 1 percent of the most conservative estimates parroted by activists and media, including The New York Times and CNN.

Of course, not every exploited child crosses paths with law enforcement, so the real number could be higher. Whatever it is, we can probably all agree it's too high. But it's not high enough to warrant the level of government spending being thrown at the problem -- hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when our governments are fiscally strapped.

But that story's much less sexy. And much-less-sexy will not win Amber Lyon an Emmy.

Lyon is the subject of a story you'll see in this week's Observer, penned by Village Voice Editor Tony Ortega. In it, Ortega demonstrates how Lyon has transitioned from reporter to activist and how she used obviously bogus stats to ambush Craigslist's admittedly meek and borderline-autistic founder, Craig Newmark, accusing his message board-style classifieds of aiding and abetting child-sex traffickers.

That's where we come in. It wasn't only the fear-obsessed media who ambushed Craigslist; it was also several states' attorneys general, who, under pressure from conservative activists, strong-armed Craigslist into shutting down the adult-services portions of its websites. And when they were done with Craig, they turned their sights on Backpage.com, a similar classified-and-message-board website owned by Village Voice Media (which owns the Observer , the Voice and 11 other newspapers).

Now, our owners, two famously ornery Irishmen, have their issues, but meekness ain't one of them. So they picked a fight. They picked it with the activists, with the scientists, with the politicians and with Ashton Kutcher, and now they're picking one with Amber Lyon. They've been upfront about it, but anytime you unload on an issue in which you have an obvious stake, there's bound to be some PR recoil. So it goes, to borrow from another ornery bastard.

Read Tony's story, though. It's an interesting look at how a small group of activists can use the media to turn a nuanced, worthy story into something bigger and scarier and, most important, ready for the spotlight of sweeps week, awards season and, in the case of Lyon, $250-a-plate luncheons where she and her story are the star.

*Not counting Comedy Central.

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17 comments
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Trench Reynolds
Trench Reynolds

The fact that The Village Voice is supporting backpage’s trafficking ads shows not only that they have zero objectivity but zero credibility as well.

Pat Boyack
Pat Boyack

What? The media sensationalizing a story? No!!!

Joey G. Dauben
Joey G. Dauben

There is actual evidence of children being trafficked in a case that stemmed from a child pornography bust in Ennis in February, but around the time of the Super Bowl, or leading up to it, I should say, I was sickened by all these press releases and law enforcement scare-tactics that showered everyone in D/FW about this "epidemic." Not saying it does happen, but it's always something blown way up from the likes of the celebrity-types. These people are to the sex-trafficking industry what Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are to ...a whole bunch of blown-up black-kid stories.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

the American public is naive, everyone was gung ho about a war in Iraq, and look at the clusterfuck a few powerful people put us into.

Let's do the right thing for the children.

pak152
pak152

" It's an interesting look at how a small group of activists can use the media to turn a nuanced, worthy story into something bigger and scarier"

alar, audi throttle problem, toyota throttle problem, fraccing, child sex crimes in Massachusettts, you name it the press is in bed with these activists barely casting a skeptical eye at the problem. I'm glad to see that your sister pub did the right thing and investigated the story and called BS on it.

maybe the next time someone comes forth with a story that doesn't sound just right the press/media will ask the hard questions

Steve
Steve

So how many ways is Village Voice Media going to prostitute this story?

Constant Drone
Constant Drone

I'm always careful not to step in the "**prostitution free trade/open border for all illegals** in Texas" droppings that the northeastern US parent company systematically plants on this website. It has become painfully apparent who's interest is being served here.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Not sure the Village Voice has much ground to stand on in this one - and certainly is not in a position to evaluate whether the level of government funding for this problem is merited by the severity of the issue, regardless of whether a bunch of idiot celebrities are hocking junk statistics. At least they are trying to solve a problem, instead of fighting for their right to facilitate illegal activity (ie, the sale of sex).

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

How many "non-profits" are supporting this "cause"?  Go pull their 990s and see what the leaders are paying themselves with government money. It certainly pays the rent in a decent neighborhood.

Anonymous
Anonymous

That's true of most non-profits, but then I'm skeptical of that entire industry anyways. Charities seem to be most charitable to their managers and key donors.

MattL1
MattL1

Didn't anybody stop to think about, if there are 100,000-300,000 forced child prostitutes, how many American men that means are paying for sex with underage forced prostitutes?  I'm not sure I know more than one or two people who have ever slept with an ADULT prostitute, let alone a child, and I know some pretty horrible people.  Who in their right mind believed that crap in the first place?

Helen Lovejoy
Helen Lovejoy

Please....won't somebody think of the children!

P1Steven
P1Steven

Reminds me of the devil worshipper scares of the 80's. I was not allowed to go to play in the woods because my mother believed the devil worshippers would kidnap & sacrifice me.

El Rey
El Rey

Just because you didn't go in the woods, doesn't mean we weren't waiting for you, Steven...

P1Steven
P1Steven

In that case, I guess Momma does know best.

Phelps
Phelps

When I hear "for the children", the first thing I do is check my wallet.

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