Star Tribune runs discredited sex trafficking numbers AGAIN

Categories: Media beefs

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We thought we'd killed this bit of pseudoscience. But it won't die.
This is getting ridiculous.

Nearly a month ago City Pages ran a cover story thoroughly debunking the child sex trafficking statistics being shopped around by the Women's Funding Network.

We also called out the major news organizations that got suckered by the study and regurgitated its imaginary numbers without bothering to check them out.

Among those outlets were many of the local heavy hitters: Minnesota Public Radio, the Pioneer Press, and the Star Tribune.

To its credit, Minnesota Public Radio has since followed up on our story with a thoroughly reported piece by Madeleine Baran, which found the same thing we did: No self-respecting critical thinker takes this crap seriously. Not academics, not the cops, not the FBI, not even the expert the Schapiro Group, which conducted the study, said would back them up.

Well, you can lead a news outlet to knowledge but you can't make them think.

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Just today, at the very top of the Star Tribune's politics page, an article by Bob von Sternberg repeats the same threadworn fabrications: Juvenile prostitution in the Twin Cities shot up 55 percent in just six months.

Von Sternberg wouldn't speak on the record about where he got the study or whether he checked it out before reprinting the numbers.

Patricia Lopez, the paper's political editor, referred questions to Managing Editor Rene Sanchez. Sanchez hasn't responded to phoned and e-mailed requests for comments on the Strib's standards for vetting advocate's claims before reprinting them.

Until the City Pages story ran, other reporters and editors across the country had been too lazy to investigate this pseudoscience before rebroadcasting it to their readers. To check the numbers would have required digging up the original study and reading its methodology section.

But since the story ran, the threshold of due diligence is even lower: a simple Google search of any of the relevant terms brings up the City Pages / Village Voice headline, which ought to be enough to give any rigorous reporter pause.

Apparently even a Google search is too much to ask, though. So the zombie study gets to feed on the brains of unsuspecting Star Tribune readers, then staggers on down the road to its next date with an uncritical media.


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