New York Times needs to come clean on journalist’s conflicts

The question of New York Times Jerusalem chief Ethan Bronner and whether his son is in the IDF is thrashed out by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting:

The decisions of Bronner’s son, however, are not the issue. What the Times needs to ask itself is whether it expects that its bureau chief has the normal human feelings about matters of life or death concerning one’s child.

Might he feel hostility, for example, when interviewing members of organizations who were trying to kill his son? When the IDF goes into battle, might he be rooting for the side for which his son is risking his life? Certainly such issues would be taken very seriously if a Times reporter had a child who belonged to a military force that was engaged in hostilities with the IDF; indeed, there’s little doubt that a reporter in that position would not be allowed to continue to cover the Mideast conflict.

Having a conflict of interest, it should be stressed, is not the same thing as producing slanted journalism; rather, it means that a journalist has outside motivations that are strongly at odds with his or her journalistic responsibilities. That a journalist has been “scrupulously fair” in the past does not excuse an ongoing conflict of interest; journalists should not be placed in a position where they have to ignore the well-being of their family in order to do their job, nor should readers be expected to trust that they can do so.