Suffering the slings and arrows of the Lilliputians of the Web

It is the new Internet world order.

First, the professional newspaper reporter does the heavy lifting, seeks out the documents, tracks down the sources, does the interviews, finds or assigns the photographs, writes and rewrites, laying out the issues at hand.

Then along come the ankle-biting Lilliputians of the blogosphere casting aspersions based on suspicions, assumptions and their own biases sans any research whatsoever.

Since the Review-Journal published special projects reporter Alan Maimon’s story on law enforcement’s crackdown on the Strip’s 50 most prolific prostitutes, along with booking mugs of two dozen women arrested in the effort so far, the usual suspects have done their usual huffing and puffing.

I received an e-mail on Thursday from someone identifying herself as a “reporter” for an online magazine. It read: “I’m a reporter for Salon.com and am writing a blog post about Alan Maimon’s article featuring mugshots of Las Vegas’ ‘50 most prolific prostitutes.’ I’m curious why or how the decision was made to publish the photographs along with the article. Did the police department request it or was it an editorial decision?”

I sent a two-word reply: “Editorial decision.”

Today on Salon.com the “reporter” posted her “reporting,” saying “the Las Vegas Review-Journal took it to a new low recently by publishing the mug shots, names and ages of suspected sex workers alongside the bold all-caps header: ‘Working Girls: Las Vegas’ 50 Most Prolific Prostitutes.’”

She goes on to make repeated assumptions about the hookers being victims of pimps, drugs, abuse and rape without a shred of investigation.

“Beyond the desire to sell papers,” she looks down her apparently vow-of-poverty nose, “the editors presumably published the photos to help shame the women out of their work. (Editor Thomas Mitchell responded to an e-mail for comment noting that it was an "editorial decision" but did not elaborate.)”

She presumes, but never asked me to elaborate.

Over at the L.A. Times a blogger read the R-J story and proceeded to lecture about the crackdown: “It is only touching on one small part of the illegal prostitution that is everywhere in Vegas. These hookers are the ones who hang out in hotels looking for customers, and therefore are the most visible prostitutes to tourists; they are the Strip version of streetwalkers. For that reason this reeks of being a show pony for media rather than a serious attempt to really crack down on the activity.”

I saw no evidence that he bothered to ask Metro or the D.A. about that. And, of course, since this is a blog posting, I’m not going to bother to ask him if he asked.

Another blogger sniped: “This is how Sin City cracks down on prostitutes and sex workers — by outing them via color photos in the daily paper and online. Their clients remain anonymous as do the pimps who are part of the supply side chain.” She then linked to others with similar chagrin.

Under the heading of hell hath not fury like … comes this blogo blast: “Publishing a lavish photo spread featuring ‘Las Vegas’ most prolific prostitutes’ — under the 64-point headline, “WORKING GIRLS’ — isn’t edgy, interesting, or funny. It doesn’t do your readers a service. And the fact that you included one perfunctory quote about how men who patronize prostitutes are the real criminals — from the mayor of Las Vegas, but still — does not make up for the fact that you devoted 1,400 words and several full-color pages to ‘outing’ these women, many of whom (not that you’d know it from reading your story) are statistically likely to have been sexually abused, to be addicted to drugs, to be beaten and exploited by their pimps, or to have been forced into prostitution at a very young age.”

Statistics, but no reporting.

From a Web site calling itself Feministing, came this self-admitted sarcasm: “Ah, right. Clearly the only people with this ‘lifestyle,’ involved in this crime, are the women. Yup, all those women, selling sex to each other. Nah, no men purchasing sex. No pimps. Only these women pictured on the lefthand side of the screen. (Ok, end sarcasm …) Can you imagine the local police imposing a ‘crackdown’ on johns or on pimps? Publishing photos of the men involved in this crime? Yeah, me neither. Even though I’m willing to bet there are a LOT of male repeat offenders as well.”

And when the police do that, we’ll report it, because newspapers report what happens, not what we wish would happen. But I’ll wager, if their wishes come true, the carping class will find something in that to pique their collective dander.

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