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New York Times' Ethan Bronner to go on speaking tour

New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner, who is embroiled in an ethics controversy (see below), is about to embark on a small speaking tour on college campuses. People may wish to raise Bronner's ethics violations at these and future venues.

Speaking schedule: 
Feb. 2, Tues, 2pm: Brandeis, International Lounge of the Usdan Student Center. Sponsored by the Schusterman Center for Israeli studies and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Reporting.
(The director explained that they had chosen to bring Bronner in part because there is "something particular and valuable that a New York Times correspondent in Israel brings... a measure of authority and objectivity...")

Feb. 3, Wed, 5:30 pm: Vassar College, Taylor Hall, Room 102

Feb. 8, Mon, 8 pm: UC Santa Barbara, Campbell Hall


The New York Times ethics guidelines state that a family member's actions and position can raise conflict of interest problems that require a journalist to be assigned to a different news area. As an example, the Times' notes that a daughter in a high position on Wall Street could cause a conflict-of-interest problem for a business editor.

Bronner's son has just entered the Israeli military, creating just such a serious conflict-of-interest problem.

The Times guidelines state: " Where the conflict with our impartiality seems minimal, top news executives may consider matters case by case, but they should be exceedingly cautious before permitting an exception."

I agree - especially when the conflict with impartiality is far from "minimal." I find it difficult to believe that a father will view those with whom his son is fighting with complete objectivity... that he will view military engagements in which his son may be involved with impartiality. 

It would be one thing if Bronner were a columnist, his prejudices and affiliations fully disclosed, his attachments trumpeted - and balanced by another columnist with differing views and connections.

But he is not. He is a bureau chief charged with giving readers the full, unslanted news. The Times, in explaining the reason for its ethics policy, states: "Our fundamental purpose is to protect the impartiality and neutrality of the company's newsrooms and the integrity of their news reports."

It is time for the newspaper to do so in its foreign bureau; Bronner should be moved to an assignment where he is not reporting on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It's disturbing that Foreign Editor Susan Chira has refused to address Bronner's conflict with impartiality, particularly given the Times' record of distorted reporting on this issue. We suggest that the Times' investigate whether she, also, has a conflict with impartiality on this subject.

In 2005 we undertook a statistical study of the Times' coverage of Israeli and Palestinian deaths and discovered that the newspaper had reported on Israeli children's deaths at a rate over seven times greater than Palestinian children's deaths.

Other analysts have also found highly flawed reporting, including an excellent book by Richard Falk and Howard Friel: "Israel-Palestine on Record: How the New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East."

When Bronner debated Friel on this topic, we are told that he dismissed Friel's objections, stating that the New York Times is a business, and that it reports how and what it wishes.

Given this viewpoint, it is odd to find announcements for his upcoming talks on college campuses stating that Bronner will address such concepts as "fairness" and "balance."

The announcements also state that Bronner will "explore the challenges faced by a journalist covering two distinctly opposing narratives." The announcements fail to reveal his intimate connection to one.

Moreover, I find Bronner's "two narratives" approach to Israel-Palestine strange. The reality is that there are objective facts to obtain and report.

In this case, the reality is that the Israeli army, the fourth most powerful on earth, is, in the words of Israeli soldiers, 'dominating, expelling, starving and humiliating an entire people.'

And Mr. Bronner's son has just signed on.

Posted on Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 07:50AM by Registered Commenter[Alison Weir | Comments Off

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