Today’s New York Times features letters responding to Public Editor Arthur Brisbane’s column last week on Ethan Bronner’s conflict of interest regarding his relationship with Lone Start Communications. The letters run 6-1 against Bronner.
The basic question is: How can your readers take anything that Ethan Bronner writes on the Middle East seriously, given his associations with a right-wing Israeli public relations firm and his son’s service in the Israel Defense Forces?
FRANK RETTENBERG, San Rafael, Calif.
Reporters should not have a business relationship with any third party that could figure, directly or indirectly, in their reporting. This is a simple, clear standard, and Mr. Bronner violated it.
BRAD SWANSON, Vienna, Va.
It’s obviously past time for Mr. Bronner’s reassignment. The only thing keeping him there — I hope — is management’s stubborn disinclination to be seen to be reacting to public pressure. . . At this point, The Times itself, not just Mr. Bronner, has a credibility problem.
MARTIN DALY, Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
Your distinction between an actual conflict of interest and the appearance of a conflict is wrong. The appearance is the actual conflict. . . If the public reasonably believes that a reporter’s independence is compromised by a personal interest, he has an actual conflict. If the reporter in fact changes a story because of his personal interest, it’s no longer a conflict, but a breach of trust.
STEPHEN GILLERS, Manhattan (The writer teaches legal ethics at New York University School of Law.)
However ideologically biased he may be vis-à-vis Ethan Bronner, Max Blumenthal has performed a public service by exposing Mr. Bronner’s questionable business relationship with the pro-Zionist Lone Star Communications.
Having already ignited an ethical firestorm over his son’s enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces, Mr. Bronner behaved maladroitly in accepting paid speaking engagements with a public relations firm whose head agitates against the Palestinian cause.
The dispossession of the Palestinian people cannot be divorced from the security of the Jewish state. But neither issue will receive a fair hearing in the paper of record if an avoidable perception of impropriety hardens into a bedrock belief.
ROSARIO A. IACONIS, Mineola, N.Y.