Updated and Corrected: Former ‘NY Times’ Reporter Subject of Editors’ Note

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By: Joe Strupp

CORRECTION: The original article below was topped with a headline referring to the payment to the youth as a “loan.” Actually, Eichenwald has said, the $2000 was given to the boy to help him, and only later did he ask for a repayment. A reference to a “loan” has been deleted from the revised article below.

Also, the article stated that the reporter failed to immediately reach Eichenwald. He should have called a cell number for Eichenwald left on the answering machine.

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Former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, whose in-depth story about a teenage boy who performed sex for money on the Internet drew praise and criticism in 2005, gave the boy $2,000 before starting work on the article, according to an editors’ note published in the newspaper today.

Eichenwald, who is now with Portfolio magazine, received accolades for the revealing story about 18-year-old Justin Berry, who openly discussed his online activities. But the reporter also came under some fire from some when he revealed, in an accompanying online essay, that he did not initially disclose his identity as a reporter to Berry.

The editors’ note stated that the payment was made public as part of a criminal proceeding in Michigan, in which a man is charged with criminal sexual conduct and other related crimes that apparently involve Berry.

“Times policy forbids paying the subjects of articles for information or interviews. A member of Mr. Berry’s family helped repay the $2,000,” the editor’s note stated, in part. “The check should have been disclosed to editors and readers, like the other actions on the youth’s behalf that Mr. Eichenwald, who left The Times last fall, described in his article and essay.”

The entire editors’ note is reproduced below:

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An article by Kurt Eichenwald on Dec. 19, 2005, reported on a teenage boy’s sexual exploitation on the Internet, and an accompanying Reporter’s Essay by Mr. Eichenwald published on nytimes.com explained the details of his initial contact with the subject.

The essay was intended to describe how Mr. Eichenwald persuaded Justin Berry, then 18, to talk about his situation. But Mr. Eichenwald did not disclose to his editors or readers that he had sent Mr. Berry a $2,000 check. Mr. Eichenwald said he was trying to maintain contact out of concern for a young man in danger, and did not consider himself to be acting as a journalist when he sent the check.

Mr. Eichenwald explained in his essay that, at the outset, he did not identify himself to Mr. Berry as a reporter. After they met in person, but before he decided that he wanted to write an article, Mr. Eichenwald said he told the youth that the money would have to be returned. Times policy forbids paying the subjects of articles for information or interviews. A member of Mr. Berry’s family helped repay the $2,000.

The check emerged as part of a criminal proceeding involving Mr. Berry in which a Michigan man is charged with criminal sexual conduct, enticing a minor to commit immoral acts and distributing child pornography. The trial began yesterday.

The check should have been disclosed to editors and readers, like the other actions on the youth’s behalf that Mr. Eichenwald, who left The Times last fall, described in his article and essay.

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