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NPR covers for David Brooks

Not surprisingly, NPR's ombudsman goes with the flow that will neither interfere with his current employment nor injure his future prospects in American journalism.

Following is an email to me from the Office of the Ombudsman, and below that is my response to NPR:

Dear Alison,
Thank you for contacting the NPR Ombudsman. We appreciate your comments and your thoughts will be taken into consideration as we continue to monitor the reporting.
The Ombudsman is currently working on a blog post about this issue. You may be interested in this statement from our standards and practices editor:

David Brooks is primarily an opinion columnist for The New York Times. He appears on All Things Considered to offer his opinions, not as a reporter. His son's service with the Israeli Defense Forces is no secretWe agree with the Times' editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, that Mr. Brooks' long-standing views about Israel have been "formed by all kinds of things ... [and] are not going to change whether or not his son is serving in the IDF, beyond his natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being." We also agree with the Times' public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that Mr. Brooks should not be barred from commenting about Israel. She has recommended that he address the issue of his son's service in the IDF in a future column. That strikes us as a reasonable suggestion. If a situation arises and we feel he should also mention it on our air, we still discuss that with Mr. Brooks at that time.


My Response:

1. In reality, the large majority of NPR listeners quite likely have no idea of Brooks' conflict of interest (and they share this ignorance with PBS's ombudsman).

The only place the information about Brooks has appeared in print to date is a Hebrew version of an Israeli newspaper, and possibly the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. It has not appeared on any mainstream broadcast entity that I'm aware of.

2. While, as you state, Mr. Brooks is not a reporter, he must still abide by journalistic ethics. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists' code of ethics states that columnists' potential conflicts of interest should be disclosed.

3. You rightly point out that Mr. Brooks has the "natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being."

The obvious reality is that Mr. Brooks' commentary about Israel does directly affect his son's "safety and well-being."

Commentary that defends Israel to the American public keeps American tax money ($8-10 million per day) and American diplomatic support for Israel flowing, both of which are extremely important for his son's safety and well-being.

Commentary that pointed out the illegality and immorality of Israel's recent killing and injuring of thousands of Gazan men, women, and children by the Israeli military in which his son is serving would quite likely interfere with his son's well-being, as an increasing number of Americans would join those around the world calling for war crimes tribunals.

4. Your statement is illogical, unfounded, and ludicrous. But your well-compensated career in mainstream American journalism will continue unhindered.

Posted on Friday, October 10, 2014 at 12:25PM by Registered Commenter[Alison Weir | Comments Off

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