Ethan Bronner, the deputy national editor of the New York Times, was interviewed by Rachel E. Gross for Moment, a Jewish publication, about his former job as Jerusalem bureau chief for the NY Times. He says that the pressure on Times reporters there has shifted, from being applied chiefly from pro-Israel groups to arising also from groups critical of Israel:
Up until about 2007, almost all the vocal criticism of the New York Times coverage came from pro-Israel forces. Beginning around then, and especially during my time as bureau chief, there developed a very strong lobby on the other side. This had to do with the development of the Internet and the growing sophistication of pro-Palestinian organizations. So the attacks came from both sides in a way that would not have been the case in the 1980s, when Tom Friedman was the correspondent. He mostly heard from the Jews. That wasn’t the case for me; I got equally smacked on both sides.
Bronner derides the critics as “screamers.” Maybe that’s why he chose to try and hide his son’s joining the Israeli Defense Force?
When my son told me he was going to join the army, I knew it wasn’t a good thing for me. But he was 20, and I felt I should allow him to live the life he wanted to lead. I figured it might get out eventually, but he was only there a year and four months, and I was crossing my fingers it wouldn’t get out too quickly. Amazingly, within five weeks of his joining, it got out. And I got emails from the Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss. And it fed into this anger and this belief that the Palestinian point of view had been underrepresented in American media. And this was the perfect example to smack us over the head with.
Let’s review the disclosure question here. Electronic Intifada broke the story in late January 2010. At that time the Times foreign editor responded opaquely to EI that Ethan Bronner’s son is an adult who makes his own decisions and the Times had confidence in Bronner’s reporting.
A week or two later, Clark Hoyt, the public editor of the Times, said that people had a right to know about the son’s service, and that it should have resulted in Bronner’s reassignment. Hoyt also reported:
Bronner said he had alerted his editors, as the paper’s ethics guidelines require.
The Times’s then-executive editor, Bill Keller, said that Bronner should stay in Jerusalem but he agreed that people had a right to know about the son’s service. Bronner’s “family connections to Israel,” Keller said, are
significant, and both he and his editors should be alert for the possibility that they would compromise his work.
Greg Mitchell caught this one and says that Bronner’s desire to shield the information was “a gross journalistic ethical sin.” The Times evidently committed the same sin, by keeping the news from its readers. Presumably Mitchell would feel the same way about all the reporters at the Times who have children in Hamas or Fatah, Palestinian political organizations with military wings. Yes, snark.
P.S. Do you notice a pattern of these reporters giving interviews to Jewish publications? Jodi Rudoren has granted interviews to Tablet and Hadassah, and she spoke to the American Jewish Committee and to the National Council of Jewish Women. This is surely a reflection of the criticism the Times is getting from the left, per Bronner. While always responsive to us on factual issues– in fact saying that we have a responsibility to contact her more than we have done before leveling criticisms– Rudoren didn’t jump up and down when I lately suggested having a “conversation” the next time I’m in Jerusalem: “I’ve mostly lost confidence that engaging with your audience is at all constructive, so not sure it’s worth doing such a conversation, but will consider it.”