Slate's Jack Shafer does a great job of deconstructing Newsweek's bogus story on the supposed increase in teen prostitution among (yikes!) middle-class girls (they need money to buy the newest clothes, dontcha know?).
Shafer points to the "wobbly nut-graf assertion" in which the author is supposed to lay out the story's basis and writes:
This paragraph, the fulcrum upon which the remainder of the article rests, doesn't convince. If law-enforcement officials say there is "a marked increase in teen prostitution," but "solid numbers are difficult to come by," what exactly are we to make of the "hundreds of thousands" figure that follows? Is Smalley saying that there are hundreds of thousands of teen prostitutes? Or that there are "hundreds of thousands" more teen prostitutes than there once were? If that's the case, how reliable is a study that advances such a vague number? Over what period was this "government-sponsored" population study of teen prostitutes conducted? And who conducted it? Smalley neglects to point her readers to her primary source.
This is media criticism at its best. Like many stories involving teens, sex, the Internet, drugs, and a few other topics, Newsweek's teen pro story manages to see print while dodging the sort of (er) smell test that zoning board stories are routinely subjected to.
Reason debunked Rolling Stone's recent iteration of another journalistic chestnut, "the new drug of choice story," a while back.