And you know what that means for Bronner- probably a promotion.
This isn’t the first time Bronner’s objectivity/ethics has been an issue for the NYT Public Editor.The last time was when Bronner’s son was serving in the IDF. The Public Editor at the time, Clark Hoyt, took the position that Bronner was a fine reporter and while he believed that Bronner could likely still be objective as the NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief, even the appearance of conflict of interest was unacceptable and thus he recommended that Bronner be temporarily re-assigned (until his son finished his IDF service). However, the other NYT editors/management ignored Hoyt and Bronner remained the Jerusalem Bureau Chief.
This time, the alleged conflict of interest is a result of Bronner’s financial/contractual relationship with an Israeli public relations firm, Lone Star Communications, which is believed to cater to the Israeli political right. The primary issue with respect to Bronner is that they sometimes pitch him stories involving their other clients in the hopes that Bronner will write about them in the NYT. That alone might be suspect but additionally, when Bronner has written articles based on requests by Lone Star, he hasn’t disclosed his relationship to the PR firm.
How did this information come to light? Did the NYT notice the conflict of interest? No. It was independent blogger/journalist Max Blumenthal, who time and time again has shown that true investigative journalism, while rare, is essential in order to hold those in power, whether politicians, the government, business, the military or the media, accountable. Max’s article appeared in the influential Columbia Journalism Review, and that probably is what caught the NYT’ attention.
It would appear that although this is strike 2 for Mr. Bronner, the NYT is willing to overlook this admitted ethics lapse. Blogger Adam Horowitz has been following the story and he notes that the current Public Editor is incorrect in claiming that Bronner’s relationship with Lone Star had minimal impact on his reporting. Horowitz writes about (and links to the audio of) a speech Bronner gave at Duke University where he discusses an article he wrote at the behest of Lone Star and he seems to acknowledge the political agenda of the PR firm and their desire to use the NYT for their political ends. Interestingly, Bronner’s speech raises questions about his objectivity when it comes to the Palestinians. One would think that regardless of his views- and he certainly has a right to his own views- that he would probably want to avoid publicly discussing the Palestinians (or Israelis) in a political context or in a way that could leave him open to claims of bias since the subject of his reporting is one of the most contentious foreign policy issues, bar none. In the past when there have been claims of pro-Palestinian bias, even in guest columns, the NYT has moved pretty quickly to apologize and ensure that the offending author does not pen another piece for the Times.