Meet Tony Ortega the Backpage dot com Apologist

Tony Ortega’s “journalistic” career began with The Phoenix New Times in the mid 90’s when the company’s then flagship paper, The New Times, became part of the Village Voice Media merger in 2005.

After a four-year stint as staff writer, Ortega wrote for The New Times Los Angeles for three years before returning to become Associate Editor of The Phoenix New Times. Following this, he became managing editor of The New Times-owned The Pitch, in Kansas City, where he worked from 2003-2005 before leaving to become editor of the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.

Desperate for a new angle, Ortega published his first anti-Scientology article on November 30, 1995. It was a puff piece about a convicted thief turned deprogrammer named Rick Ross. Four years later he wrote a second article about upset parishioners protesting anti-religionist Jeff Jacobsen’s dating services. Ortega would pen a third anti-Scientology article late in September of 2001, this time wading into the sordid story of Tory Christman who’d run from her husband to join the cult of Robert Minton.

Ortega became the Editor in Chief of the Village Voice in March of 2007.  At that time the paper was already struggling financially and many writers and staff had already abandoned ship. In short order, however, Ortega would either fire or drive off what remained of the stable of Village Voice journalists who had made the paper so popular. His decisions would leave the paper editorially bankrupt.

After after a six year hiatus, Ortega would reemerge on April 15, 2008, to publish an interview with a no-name B-list actor on the subject of Scientology. It was with this article that Ortega’s fevered obsession with Scientology would become his main preoccupation, causing London’s The Guardian newspaper to wonder aloud to its readers, “For some hard-to-fathom reason, the Voice’s editor, Tony Ortega, has pursued an obsession with Scientology.”

Yet as professionally questionable as Ortega’s fixation with Scientology may seem, it pales in comparison to the manner in which he “works his sources”.

Indeed, Ortega, as Editor-in-Chief of the Village Voice, wrote, “I’m only as good as my sources” adding,  “It’s not unusual for reporters, after working with helpful sources, to feel that they’ve become friends. It’s happened to me and just about every other journalist I know. But as professionals, we know that it’s important to keep some distance from the sources we rely on for information.”

It would appear that Tony Ortega grossly fails to live up to the journalistic standard he for much of his career imposed on others.

Judging from the following photographs it would appears that Ortega’s modus operandi is to become more than just “friendly” with his sources, especially when considering that he actually married one of them! (See our previous story on Arielle Silverstein, who continues to financially support her chronically unemployed husband).

Not only does Ortega fraternize with his sources but he also gets paid by them under the thinly veiled guise of “donations” which allow him to continue to pursue his pet obsession.

In the shameful tradition of internet begging, Tony Ortega writes:

“Most of you are probably fully aware of how the journalism industry has been decimated by the Internet. But the ‘net has also given rise to amazing new opportunities, like this singular website. We’d like to keep it going, but in order to do so, and in order to make plans that will help us keep it going for the indefinite future, we have decided to post a Paypal Donate button. The Underground Bunker will continue to be free to read. There are no memberships, and no reader should feel obliged to contribute. But for our readers who would like to help keep this blog alive, we encourage you to make a donation.”

Then, as if to give it an aura of legitimacy, Ortega passes the bucket to his attorney, Scott Pilutik, who wrote:

“I’m the Bunker’s attorney and its webmaster. At Tony’s request, I’ve created a Paypal account that will receive all donations. For each donation, you’ll receive a confirmation and a thank you from me. Before that money is released to Tony, I will make sure that any identifying information is removed. In other words, Tony will not know the identities of anyone who donates to the Underground Bunker. We think that will help protect his journalistic integrity, but also help him grow the site. I’ll point out that PayPal deducts a small percentage if you pay without a PayPal account of your own. Please contact me for more information about how to make a direct transfer to avoid deductions from Paypal — I’ve established the email.”

The obvious questions remain, what in the way of journalistic integrity does Ortega display? Is he the sort of “journalist” who ingratiates himself as a best friends to his sources? Is he the sort of “journalist” who writes about the exact same subject day after day, year after year? A “journalist” who cranks out reams hopelessly repetitive propaganda? A “journalist” who cyber-stalks his victims? A “journalist” who interferes with people’s lives and businesses? A “journalist” who loudly and publicly supported and defended sex trafficking platform Backpage.com?

Perhaps the only real question worth asking should be the one Ortega’s attorney Pilutik ought to be asking himself: ‘Why am I representing someone who is fanatically obsessed and incapable of moving on? I may have worked in the seedy world of pornography but I still have standards.’

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