MEL knows a good story when it sees it – and today’s number-one emailed story is a doozy, although “good” is not the first word to spring to mind about the secret pornographic online life of a 13-year old boy. The story of Justin Barry is pretty jaw-dropping, and Kurt Eichenwald has done some really great work here (especially since there is no additional reporting credit at the end. But the piece is silent about how the NYT came to the story). The NYT‘s six-month investigation has had serious results:
In a series of meetings, The Times persuaded Justin to abandon his business and, to protect other children at risk, assisted him in contacting the Justice Department. Arrests and indictments of adults he identified as pornography producers and traffickers began in September. Investigators are also focusing on businesses, including credit card processors that have aided illegal sites. Anyone who has created, distributed, marketed, possessed or paid to view such pornography is open to a criminal charge.
As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of the domestic spying story and the power the NYT and other newspapers have to significantly change people’s lives (if and when such stories are actually printed!). It’s huge, deep, investigative stories like this that newspapers and magazines must keep on bankrolling, and their backers (hi, Mort Zuckerman). Investigative reporting doesn’t just happen, so kudos to the NYT for making sure this one did.
UPDATE: Eichenwald has an essay about finding, researching and writing this story here (in the Business section, oddly). It is a pretty amazing account.