Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The New York Times, Israel and Ethan Bronner

No Conflict of Interest ... With the Conventional Wisdom


"The New York Times’ public editor wrestled this week with conflict-of-interest charges sparked by the revelation that Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner’s son had joined the Israeli army. The executive editor of the paper responded with a defense of the paper’s decision to keep Bronner in that position.

Although it had the appearance of a spirited exchange, the “debate” was a tired old diversion that keeps us from facing more important questions, not just about the Israel/Palestine conflict but about U.S. journalists’ coverage of the world. As is typical in mainstream journalists’ discussions of journalistic neutrality and objectivity, the focus on an individual obscures more important questions about the institutions for which individuals work and the powerful forces that shape those institutions’ picture of the world......

The problems with the coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict in the Times, and virtually every other corporate-commercial news outlet in the United States, are not the result of biases of specific reporters, though individual reporters may indeed have allegiances to one side of an issue. The mainstream media have a conflict of interest at a deeper level -- they are unwilling to break with the conventional wisdom about the conflict that dominates in the United States, especially among U.S. policymakers. U.S. news coverage of the conflict relentlessly presents the news within this Israeli narrative, primarily because powerful forces in this country find that narrative useful for U.S. strategic interests in the region, and U.S. journalists tend to fall in line with that view..... "

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