N.Y. Times Admits Reporter Paid Source in Online Teen Porn Story

Michael Hayes
NEW YORK — The New York Times has admitted that former staff writer Kurt Eichenwald paid his source, Justin Berry, in order to gain his trust for a 2005 expose on teen porn websites.

In a sidebar to a follow-up column by the paper’s editor, Byron Calame, the New York Times disclosed that Eichenwald had paid Berry $2,000.

“The check should have been disclosed to editors and readers, like the other actions on the youth's behalf,” the paper said.

The story made Berry, who began selling sexual images of himself online at age 13, a poster boy for the pervasiveness of child pornography online. In the Eichenwald story, Berry revealed that his operation was fueled by a number of mainstream Internet sites.

“There are a number of companies that are unknowingly used as hosting companies for child pornography,” ASACP Director Joan Irvine told XBIZ at the time the story broke. “That includes billing companies and sites like Yahoo and eGold.com.”

After the article, Berry, now an adult, began working with the FBI to bring to justice the thousands of adults who encouraged him and other minors to perform sex acts online.

Eichenwald, who left the paper in October, told the Associated Press that he had sent the check in an effort to learn the true name and address of Berry, who used an alias at the time.

“We were gambling $2,000 on the possibility of saving a kid's life,” he said.

The Times, like many newspapers, prohibit reporters from paying sources.

Eichenwald said Berry’s grandmother eventually repaid the money, adding that he should have disclosed the initial payment in his story.

“I know I did unusual things, and if I should have disclosed what I did as a private citizen in more detail, so be it. But put me through the same situation, I can't say I'd do anything differently,” Eichenwald said.