Once again, the New York Times‘s public editor has taken the paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Ethan Bronner, to the woodshed for conflict of interest. This time, Bronner was caught (by the tireless Max Blumenthal) getting paid to give speeches by a public relations firm linked to the Israeli right. The public editor, Arthur Brisbane, found that Bronner did not disclose the relationship to his superiors because he said he misunderstood the Times‘s ethics guidelines.
Brisbane notes that his predecessor, Clark Hoyt, had already recommended that Bronner be reassigned because his son was serving in the Israeli military at the same time he was purportedly objectively covering the conflict.
Brisbane questions this latest conflict of interest, but still mollycoddles Bronner, trying to find excuses for his conduct. Most annoying were these 2 sentences:
Mr. Bronner was pointed in arguing that the attack by Mr. Blumenthal, who writes critically of Israel’s dealings with the Palestinians, was ideologically motivated and designed to discredit Mr. Bronner. Mr. Blumenthal’s piece may well have been influenced by an animus toward Mr. Bronner’s reportage for The Times.
These 2 sentences are worth re-reading. Max Blumenthal, a courageous reporter who makes no secret of his human concern for Palestinians, is somehow guilty of “animus.” But Ethan Bronner, whose New York Times salary and expense account are apparently insufficient for his needs, breaks his paper’s policy on conflict of interest, keeps his superiors in the dark, and feels no need to apologize.
On paper, The Times has strict standards for its reporters. They are not, for instance, allowed to sign petitions, wear campaign buttons, or attend demonstrations in their capacity as citizens. Emma Goldman, the great anarchist/feminist, once said, “First we have to teach the ruling class to live up to their values, before we even try and teach them ours.”
So: does Ethan Bronner get 3 strikes?