With no news developing in the sordid Kurt Eichenwald/webcams/whatever saga, we’re glad we have Susie Bright. The ‘sexpert’ talked to Counterpunch reporter Debbie Nathan, who is covering the Eichenwald beat… and it’s worth reading for a variety of reasons.
Bright: Kurt says that he took extraordinary measures because he wanted to save this kid. Why is it that journalists aren’t ethically allowed to be social workers?
Nathan: A reporter is supposed to be an observer of what’s going on, not an actor in the story. There’s a high risk that intervening in someone’s problems, with money or other assistance, will change the way the person acts and how the story unfolds. In the case of Justin Berry, there’s compelling evidence that Eichenwald gave Berry money, which Berry used to support to support his day-to-day life, which included making porn of underaged teens after he received Eichenwald’s money, and buying and using drugs after he got the payments.
In the resulting Times story, Eichenwald said he engaged in this activity to save Justin from near death from drug use, and to rescue a former child porn victim from a life of adult crime, making underage porn. Yet Eichenwald’s “help” seems to have significantly contributed to these very conditions.
Eichenwald took Berry to the Department of Justice to find him a criminal defense lawyer (who happens to be the same one Eichenwald now is using, apparently because of fear the feds are investigating him).
That defense lawyer took Berry to the DOJ and negotiated immunity from prosecution in exchange for Berry turning state’s evidence on four men whom he’d been involved with in making and distributing underage porn. (Some of these men have been fighting back in court, and that’s how all Kurt’s cancelled checks and dealings have come into public view -SB).
From a journalism ethics viewpoint, making immunity deals for your source is a bad idea, because it can create a perception among people who’ve broken the law that the press is in league with the cops and government.
Particularly with stories about sex, our culture craves formulaic narratives. We have the tropes of innocence defiled by pure evildoers, and moral collapse redeemed by the rescuers.
But journalism is supposed to help us learn about reality – not only because reality is fascinating, but because if there’s a problem, we need to understand it in all its complexity in order to fix it.
It’s a sick, sad world, kids.
(Image via Susie Bright)