The venerable alternative newspapers plus 11 others are part of a buyout announced last night that will separate them from Backpage.com, the classified ad service that critics say promotes prostitution. The chief operating officer of Village Voice Media Holdings, Scott Tobias, led the team buying the papers, called Voice Media Group. Terms weren’t disclosed, except that Backpage.com is not included. The site known for its classified ads offering “escorts” had been a “distraction,” Tobias — who’s CEO of the new Voice Media Group — told AP. In March, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said that Backpage played “a major role in the trafficking of minors or women who are coerced.” Goldman Sachs responded by selling its stake in the site. The Voice said that Kristof had it wrong, and that Backpage “dedicates hundreds of staff to screen adult classifieds in order to keep juveniles off the site and to work proactively with law enforcement in their efforts to locate victims.”
Under the new arrangement, Tobias says he’ll be able to focus “on building a dynamic media business that allows our advertisers to target local audiences through multiple platforms” while offering “high-caliber and comprehensive content to our readers.” Christine Brennan, who had been executive managing editor of Village Voice Media Holdings will be the new company’s executive editor and Jeff Mars will be CFO. In addition to the Voice and LA Weekly, properties in the deal include: Westword (Denver), New Times (Phoenix), Houston Press, Dallas Observer, Riverfront Times (St. Louis), New Times (Miami), City Pages (Minneapolis), New Times (Broward), SF Weekly (San Francisco), Seattle Weekly, and OC Weekly (Orange County). The buyers also will pick up Village Voice Media Holdings’ national advertising division, which reaches more 3M readers a week at partner sites and publications in 56 metro markets.