The Electronic Intifadah, Tikun Olam, Mondoweiss, and FAIR have all been probing whether NY Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner’s son enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces. The implications of such a tie for an ostensibly credible reporter are huge. But to date, Bronner and the newspaper have been somewhat evasive when asked for confirmation and how this might be a conflict of interest.
Susan Chira, the foreign editor of The New York Times replied to The Electronic Intifada that “Ethan Bronner referred your query to me, the foreign editor. Here is my comment: Mr. Bronner’s son is a young adult who makes his own decisions. At The Times, we have found Mr. Bronner’s coverage to be scrupulously fair and we are confident that will continue to be the case.”
FAIR, If Americans Knew and other media watchdogs have frequently taken issue with that grand postulate. What do fellow Times reporters think? Today on a public radio program I asked NYT chief Washington correspondent David Sanger how the newspaper could maintain credibility on the Middle East (mp3) when it didn’t address these types of conflicts of interest. Sanger seemed to confirm the IDF report, but awkwardly repeated the emerging company line that it wasn’t a problem—at least not for the “AfPak” sector he was pontificating about. “The last time I looked in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I have not seen the Israeli military as a significant operating source there. So if we have a New York Times reporter with a son in the IDF, and I think I know who that reporter is, ah and there’s no reason that the reporter’s son should be limited in what he does by what his father may…profession is, I’m not sure it has anything to do with our reporting on Afghanistan or Pakistan.” Indeed.
So apparently there’s really nothing to see here and everyone should just move along—just like they did when NYT personality Jack Kroll was taking PR payola from the quasi governmental Jewish Agency in Jerusalem. And if anyone dares think that analysts at the Brookings Institution are in any way influenced by Israeli-American Haim Saban’s $13 million policy center, Michael O’Hanlon confirmed on the same radio program that’s not a problem either.