New York Times Fails to Disclose Possible Conflict of Interest

By Sadie Bass

Feb 8, 2010 1:09pm

ABC's Bruno Nota reports from Jerusalem: Mention the Middle East and many immediately think of conflict, occupation, humanitarian crises, failed peace initiatives or other such words. All of them carry with them the weight of years of tragedy, death and animosity. For most people who have not travelled there the main sources of information are the media reports, television and print, coming from journalists assigned to cover the region. One of those journalists has lately become the focal point of a debate over objectivity of the news coverage of this long lasting and divisive conflict. Ethan Bronner is the Jerusalem bureau chief for what is considered to be the one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world, the New York Times. Mr. Bronner’s son decided to enlist in the Israeli Defence Forces. The publication of this fact has triggered this debate. The information was disclosed by a web site called The Electronic Intifada, an “independent publication committed to comprehensive public education on the question of Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the economic, political, legal, and human dimensions of Israel's 40-year occupation of Palestinian territories” as it introduces itself to the visitors of the site. The Electronic Intifada posted the response it received from The New York Times when it queried Bronner’s position. The New York Times stood by their man when the website asked whether the paper considered the fact that its Jerusalem’s bureau chief’s son is serving in the Israeli military a possible conflict of interest : “Mr. Bronner's son is a young adult who makes his own decisions. At The Times, we have found Mr. Bronner's coverage to be scrupulously fair and we are confident that will continue to be the case." This statement was emailed to The Electronic Intifada by Susan Chira , the foreign editor of the New York Times. The New York Times published a column written by Bill Keller, the paper’s executive editor, who is of the opinion Mr. Bronner should remain the paper’s trusted correspondent in Jerusalem despite of his son’s decision to join the IDF.  Mr. Keller says that he was informed by Mr. Bronner of his son’s decision and there was no reason to start doubting Mr. Bronner’s ability to continue his work in Jerusalem. Mr. Keller suggests in his column that part of the problem could be found with the people contesting the journalistic integrity of Mr Bonner, hinting that sometimes readers too can bring their own prejudice when reading an article. Clark Hoyt, the New York Time’s public editor disagrees with his executive editor.  Despite his respect for Mr Bronner and his work, Mr Hoyt considers that even the appearance of a possible conflict of interest should be enough to convince the paper to reassign Mr Bronner for the duration of his son’s service in the Israeli military. Mr Bronner hopes his work will speak for itself:  “I wish to be judged by my work, not by my biography. Either you are the kind of person whose intellectual independence and journalistic integrity can be trusted to do the work we do at The Times, or you are not.”

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus