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FAIR Questions Bronner’s Objectivity

The progressive media watchdog group, FAIR, has published a statement joining Electronic Intifada and Tikun Olam in questioning the stonewalling approach the NY Times has taken to the issue of whether Ethan Bronner’s son’s induction into the IDF raises questions about his objectivity and conflict of interest:

What the Times needs to ask itself is whether it expects that its bureau chief has the normal human feelings about matters of life or death concerning one’s child.

Might he feel hostility, for example, when interviewing members of organizations who were trying to kill his son? When the IDF goes into battle, might he be rooting for the side for which his son is risking his life? Certainly such issues would be taken very seriously if a Times reporter had a child who belonged to a military force that was engaged in hostilities with the IDF; indeed, there’s little doubt that a reporter in that position would not be allowed to continue to cover the Mideast conflict.

Having a conflict of interest, it should be stressed, is not the same thing as producing slanted journalism; rather, it means that a journalist has outside motivations that are strongly at odds with his or her journalistic responsibilities. That a journalist has been “scrupulously fair” in the past does not excuse an ongoing conflict of interest; journalists should not be placed in a position where they have to ignore the well-being of their family in order to do their job, nor should readers be expected to trust that they can do so.

FAIR goes on to note that Bronner’s reporting has certainly not been known to be “scrupulously fair” in the past, which strengthens the level of concern among progressive readers of the Times.  I wrote here that Bronner’s last report on a new IDF offensive against the Goldstone Report claims that “virtually all Israelis” and even human rights NGOs agree there was no wholesale attack on civilian infrastructure in Gaza as Goldstone claims.  This is a patently false statement and has no right being in a newspaper claiming to represent a neutral perspective on this issue.

Please take FAIR’s advice and write or call Clark Hoyt, the Times’ public editor.  If he covers this at all publicly, he’ll doubtless side with Bronner and his editors, but it’s still worth trying to keep ‘em honest:

CONTACT:
New York Times
Clark Hoyt, Public Editor
public@nytimes.com
Phone: 212-556-7652

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  • Donald January 28, 2010, 1:03 PM

    I think it’s fair to say the NYT would not have someone reporting on the conflict if their son or daughter was part of Hamas, even if only acting in a non-military capacity doing social service work or whatever. But I doubt they’d see the analogy. It’s not likely that they’d replace Bronner anyway and he’s not going to tell his son to get out of the IDF, so complaining about this probably just gives the NYT an excuse to get up on their high horse and claim that it’s outrageous that anyone would think he could possibly be biased by such a thing.

    I think it’s better just to focus on Bronner’s clear bias in the stories he’s written–something you’ve done a very good job pointing out yourself. (In fact, maybe people could link to some of your posts and send that to Hoyt.)
    In theory he could have a child in the IDF and still do a scrupulously fair job reporting on the conflict. In practice, he’s done nothing of the sort.

    • Richard Silverstein January 28, 2010, 1:11 PM

      If Bronner’s reporting were good, then this wouldn’t be such a big issue. But his reporting as you note has been sorely lacking & so critics leap on this as yet more proof of his added potential for bias.

    • Shirin January 31, 2010, 1:46 AM

      In theory he could have a child in the IDF and still do a scrupulously fair job reporting on the conflict. In practice, he’s done nothing of the sort.

      In theory he could have a child who was the most rabid anti-Zionist activist on earth and still be a shill for Israel. In reality he has never done a remotely fair job of reporting on the conflict, and his son’s activities have nothing to do with it.