Miami New Times made national news this past week when investigators accused Miami Beach Police Ofcr. Gregg Priest of running two brothels. The cops discovered Priest's alleged sideline, it seems, by calling a number listed in a classified advertisement in this very publication. It read "VERY BUSTY YOUNGEST GIRLS ... barely legal." The Miami Herald story describing Priest's resignation ran on page one. Television stations and other media sources, including the Associated Press, followed. Revelations have continued to fill news pages.
The offending ad was similar to dozens that appear each week in New Times. "Dominant Divas," reads one. "Lisa, 21 Yr Old. Hot Black Petite and Sweet. 34C-23-36," reads another. Then there's "Horny College Girls" with a phone number. When Riptide called Natasha, whose New Times ad read, "Beautiful Female!!" she answered the phone: "Hello ... $100 an hour. $140 for a massage." Asked what she would provide, she responded, "You have to know before you call."
The Herald's adult section, though shorter, is just as hot. Consider: "FLAWLESS BLOND PUTS OUT * HER ALL" or "BLONDE LOVES MAKIN HER WORK LAST." Or the ever-so-subtle "Mind Blown Blonde."
Even the BellSouth Yellow Pages for greater Miami offer four pages of escort services. "Models, Models!" screams one. "Discretion Assured," promises another. Chrissy, Christina, and Christine all offer their services where your fingers do the walking.
All three publications limit what they'll accept when it comes to sex. New Times doesn't allow the words anal, wet, moist, head, or come, among other lascivious verbiage, says classified sales director Kevin Montgomery. At least since 1993 language has been limited. No escort services, body shampoos, shaving. "Sometimes they slip through," Montgomery says, "but we try to catch most."
Herald president Joe Natoli didn't answer phone calls seeking comment but responded to faxed questions. The paper has a list of prohibited words, doesn't allow escort services, and only permits photos from the shoulder up. "Many of the ads that appear in New Times wouldn't be accepted in the Herald," he taunted.
Neither paper checks whether prostitutes are purchasing ads. Both allow only licensed massage therapists to tout their services.
BellSouth has an approved list of words, according to several pages faxed from a company pamphlet. For instance, "Not an Escort Service or Swinger's Club" and "Seeing Is Believing" are allowed. Most language is exceedingly tame.
Although such advertising is protected by the First Amendment, newspapers do have some responsibility, says media attorney Sandy Bohrer. He cited a 1992 federal appeals court decision that upheld a two-million-dollar verdict against Soldier of Fortune magazine for running an advertisement for an assassin. The victim's family in Georgia had sued.
New Times may occasionally run sleazy ads, but it won several honors in the recent Florida Press Association's Better Weekly Newspaper contest. Art director Dean Sebring took two first places in overall graphic design and front-page makeup, and Robert Andrew Powell received the Claudia Ross Memorial Award for investigative reporting. Others who grabbed top honors: Kathy Glasgow for best sports story; Jacob Bernstein for best agricultural writing; Kirk Nielsen for best outdoor writing; and Jim DeFede for best in-depth news reporting. Tristram Korten was also honored for a news story.