That is what the whole case appears like to me, an orchestrated effort.

I suppose you’ve heard about the NYT reporter / bureau chief in Jerusalem whose son had joined the IDF. Recently, this has drawn quite some criticism after Electronic Intifida had pointed out the connection. Some 400 people wrote in to the NYT and complained about a possible lack of balance in reporting.

I’m running out to work, so I’ll just give you the Yahoo News search link so you may read up on the issue yourselves.

Worst thing, to me, is that the NYT didn’t shrug this off.

Keywords that come to mind are:
– kin liability
– slander
– no confidence in one’s staff and their professional abilities
– “like son, like father”

Keep the list going.

This is a sad day for journalism.

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froylein

11 Comments

  • so who denies it’s not orchestrated? FAIR issued an alert asking people to email the public editor about this: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4004 Bronner informed his editors when his son joined the IDF. so apparently he himself thought it was an important enough matter for them to consider.

    how is “slander” involved?

  • Wait. The NYT is now considered “journalism” again? Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

  • x, slander is involved the moment such ridiculous conclusions are held against a person. There should be more than that – afterall those complaints question that journalist’s personal and professional integrity, again, based on what his son had decided to do.

    Sashka, ah well…

  • The Times’ public editor (ombudsman) recommended Sunday that Bronner be reassigned; Times editor Bill Keller rejected that advice. Bronner does (and doubtless will continue to do) good work, but I think the issue is what importance, if any, is assigned to appearances of conflict.

  • Kol hakavod to Ethan for enlisting. For his dad, however, it is a clear conflict of journalistic integrity (not that it matters since NYT has none anyway).

    The question here isn’t that they don’t have confidence in Bronner’s journalistic abilities or that they are anti-Semites, but that it is inherently wrong for someone to report on any issue if they are intimately involved. A smiliar example would be reporting on Pakistan if you had a son in the Pakistani army or reporting on Saudi Arabia if you had a large stake in the ARAMCO and profited from positive news from the country. Also not sure how slander is involved.

  • Vicki,
    I don’t think it’s clear. It is something that needs to be discussed and addressed. It can also be monitored.

    The question isn’t just about reporters with sons in the Pakistan military. Does every American journalist who has a son in the US military need to give up reporting on US politics or foreign policy? Would every journalist whose son goes into the finance industry have to refrain from reporting on issues related to the economy or to finance? How about the arts, if you report on the arts and your son becomes a movie producer? Does that disqualify you?

    As far as I’ve seen, people will sometimes put a disclaimer on the article because they might be DIRECTLY connected to a company or organization, but then they will write it anyway. Bronner’s son is going to be doing things that are almost always out of his father’s reporting arena. If there’s a war or some commando activity and his son is a fighter in such a unit, then there may be a conflict. However, where is there a conflict when the NY Times is covering the latest Netnayahu or Abbas speech or terrorist attack or IDF attack on Gaza? There isn’t one unless the reporter is a hack, which Bronner is not.

  • Vicki, in a profession where credibility is vital, insinuating bias by accepting obviously agenda-driven propaganda feels like slander to me. (Analogously, nobody cares all that much if a man is said to ogle young women. If that man is a teacher at a higher level of education, such insinuations can mean the end of or at least a halt to his career.)

    By the logics the NYT admits, no parent to a woman could report on women’s issues, no parent to a cook / chef write restaurant reviews etc.

  • Froylein, it’s not the NY Times, it’s one of their editors. The editor in charge of Bronner has not budged regarding his reporter.

  • Middle and froylein,

    Regarding the U.S. military, I would say a definite yes. If you have a son in the U.S. army, there is a conflict of interest and you shouldn’t be reporting on it. The other issues (chef, finance) are a bit more nuanced, but not the same, since your son is not in direct danger, therefore there is still a conflict of interest, but one that is much decreased.

    I’m not implying that Bronner is a hack, but the fact is that now that his son is serving, everyone will at least need to be a lot more careful. Now, if it’s explicitly because of the Israeli army and if the NYT has not eliminated other such conflicts of interest, I would be wary. I haven’t seen evidence either way.

    A question: If the situation were reversed: a reporter in the West Bank revealed that his son were running for political office in Fatah, would it be an acceptable situation? Or is not a parallel comparison?

  • I think it depends on the history of that person’s reporting. There are reporters whose bias is evident in every report and there are those who clearly attempt to remain objective and for whom integrity and professionalism are guideposts. If this Palestinian reporter had a history of the latter, then I would trust him to continue in his ways…just as I would be suspicious anyway if he had a history of bias.

    Aside from the question of a newspaper’s obligation to report the truth objectively (an ideal that few meet), there is also a basic question of fairness to the reporter in question. Why would a political reporter in the US have to lose his job or a position where his expertise is vital because one of his children enlisted? This is his living, after all, and the child is an adult.

  • Middle, I used “NYT” as a reverse synecdoche.

    Vicki, I suppose Bronner’s son is an adult so his parents had no say in his decision to join the IDF. If parents get held responsible for their adult children’s decisions (within their legal and legitimate rights, I may add), we’re returning to a legal understanding Judaism did away with some 3,500 years ago.

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