The controversy about Ethan Bronner and his son goes deeper than the New York Times’ coverage of the Middle East.
I accept the argument that Bronner’s reporting is likely to be affected by those he lives and works with on a daily basis and by his son’s enlistment in the IDF.
But isn’t this the problem at the root of all journalism when it comes to covering conflict? The idea of "objective" journalism, after all, has always been a bit of a pipe dream, given that humans are involved. Isn’t the answer here not necessarily an Arab journalist to provide balance, but instead perhaps…an Eskimo? That is, someone at a remove, whose outlook isn’t already imprinted with a narrative?
For the most part Americans or Brits are reporting on the action in Afghanistan and Iraq (or, if not Americans, they are reporting to American editors). C.J. Chivers, a very able journalist for the TImes, is a former marine. He’s a guy you’d want in your foxhole. His pieces on the action in Afghanistan are gripping and heartbreaking. But he’s only telling one side of the story.
This is the fallacy of the "embedded journalist" practice — you’re going to identify with the guys who speak your language and who are saving your skin.
The only journalist I can think of who actually made an attempt to cross enemy lines and tell their side was the Australian Wilfred Burchett.
Burchett was the first western journalist to venture into Hiroshima after the bomb. He was the first to file copy describing the horrors of radiation sickness. He was summarily thrown out of Japan by the U.S. authorities, and William Laurence of the New York Times went on to refute the notion of radiation sickness — and won a Pulitzer. (From Common Dreams: the coverup that won a Timesman a Pulitzer).
Burchett later traveled to North Korea and North Vietnam and described the wars from their vantage points.
He was decried as a traitor.
Maybe he was; depends on what side you’re on.
Voskamp is editor of the Block Island Times.