The jury is in – Times readers decide against Bronner

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.

Some highlights:

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.


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.


About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 18 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. pabelmont says:

    Let’s hear it for ROSARIO A. IACONIS! However, his noble statement is wrong. It is not impropriety that gets in the way of hearing the issues — it is the NYT’s refusal to print facts, history, and law on the issue — especially facts, history, and law that might appear to call the Zionist experiment into question or cast it into disrepute. The current pogroms by West Bank settlers — unrestrained by Israeli police or army — are a case in point.

    • RE: “it is the NYT’s refusal to print facts, history, and law on the issue — especially facts, history, and law that might appear to call the Zionist experiment into question or cast it into disrepute.” ~ pabelmont

      MY REPLY: For gods’ sakes (or alternately: Jesus Pete), cut the New York Times a little slack. After all, it has that swank, new skyscraper designed by Renzo Piano to pay for. Consequently, it can’t risk antagonizing its readers and/or advertisers by firing a reporter who gives them what they want to read rather than the unvarnished truth (which would engender way too much emotional pain and cognitive dissonance* in its readers and/or advertisers).
      Under these circumstances (and with Murdoch “The Malefactor” breathing down its neck), the New York Times can’t afford to get its knickers in a wad over something as “quaint”** as journalistic ethics.
      ** quaint, like the Geneva Conventions!

      • RE: “which would engender way too much emotional pain and cognitive dissonance* in its readers and/or advertisers” – me, above

        ADDENDUM: Not to mention the owners, publisher(s), editors, etc. of the New York Times (and their families, friends, acquaintances, etc.)!

    • yourstruly says:

      the pogroms by west bank settlers

      shades of the vicious brutality of eastern european antisemites in the days of the shtetl

      and these attacks on peaceful demonstrators

      pure desperation

      from knowing that time’s running out

  2. Bronner is only one amongst hundreds of AIPAC style shills, regurgitators of propaganda and bias. Let’s hope that the public start questioning more closely the sources of the ‘information’ they are fed, in order to manipulate them.

  3. Dan Crowther says:

    My question would be, would the times employ a man to cover mexico if he had a son in the mexican army and a paid relationship with a large mexican company?

    My second question would be, what is it about the Palestine issue that would cause the Times to be so loose in their standards?

  4. annie says:

    go max, this is so awesome

    • hophmi says:

      “go max, this is so awesome”

      Yeah, yeah, it’s so awesome. What’s awesome about it? There’s no evidence that this influenced Bronner’s overall reportage. What do you think, that the next guy is going to write like Ali Abunimah?

      It just goes to show how you guys will consider anything a victory.

  5. Adam, You’re one hell of a reporter.

  6. i fear the NY Times will retaliate. they will transfer bronner somewhere else, which will be dressed up as a promotion of some kind. then his replacement will be some zionist who will make bronner look like a palestinian activist.

  7. seafoid says:

    LA times letters today. Very encouraging :

    link to

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calls the Israeli government’s approval of 1,100 new housing units in East Jerusalem counterproductive. I would say this is part of Israel’s repeated, unmitigated and arrogant slaps in the face to the United States, the United Nations and to the entire Arab world. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acts with impunity.

    What I have the most trouble accepting is why our nation continues to stand with Netanyahu — and how we can consider the Palestinians’ attempts at self-determination to be less valuable than those
    of Egypt’s, Tunisia’s or Libya’s.

    Netanyahu ignores the fact that building new settlements, whether in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem, violates international law. Is Israel above the law?

    Marilyn Goodman

    Santa Monica

    What more will it take for the U.S. to cut off aid to the rogue Israeli government? It is essentially saying: We are happy to take your billions of dollars, but we don’t care if you ask us to uphold the rule of law.

    The article states, “The Gilo project will expand the development to the south by several hundred yards, absorbing additional land claimed by Palestinians.” This is theft.

    Elke Heitmeyer

    Sherman Oaks

    Yalla LA!

  8. Henry Norr says:

    One more letter in today’s NY Times also deserves attention, IMO:

    Your otherwise thoughtful column perpetuates the confused and mischievous distinction between the appearance of a conflict of interest and an actual conflict. You give aid and comfort to those like Mr. Bronner who try to defend themselves against the charge of a conflict of interest by claiming that they are not actually influenced by the financial gain. That is beside the point.

    The purpose of conflict-of-interest rules is precisely to avoid an inquiry into the motives of individual reporters (and other professionals). The rules are meant to maintain the trust of readers, who are not in a position to investigate the motives of reporters.

    The rules in effect tell reporters to avoid circumstances that we know from experience create a substantial risk that professional judgment may be unduly influenced by improper considerations like financial gain. It is about the circumstances, not about the individual. To say that a reporter has violated the rule is not to say anything about his actual motives. It is to say that he has failed to respect the reasonable expectations of his readers and the public. That is a serious offense, but it is not the same offense as biased reporting.

    When a reporter’s judgment is actually distorted by gifts, payments, promise of speaking engagements and the like, the violation is no longer simply a conflict of interests but emphatically the victory of the wrong interest.

    Cambridge, Mass.

    The writer teaches government at Harvard.

  9. chet says:

    Bronner at the New York Times.

    Dennis Ross at the White House.

    Tony Blair for the Quartet.

    Is anyone surprised that the pro-Israeli narrative always gets addressed to the detriment of the Palestinians?

  10. gazacalling says:

    Great job, Adam! Way to go!