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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Bureau 'Reviled,' No Kidding

In this new interview, Ethan Bronner, the former NYT  bureau chief in Jerusalem defends the coverage from there under his tenure and by extension today, when it is more biased than ever under Jodi Rudoren.  Like others at the Times, he resorts to, basically, "we're criticized heavily by both sides so that means we are being fair."   It's like the long-standing journo argument for giving both sides on any issue equal play and that makes it not just balanced but fair and accurate.  Bronner adds that at one time it was mainly Jews complaining about coverage but now, thanks to the damn internet, they now hear equally from Palestinians and the "strong lobby on the other side."

And who is to blame?   No, not the heroic Times reporters, but the readers, who don't want accuracy and fairness but merely having their own views bolstered.  Of course, that's partly true, but for Bronner, it's the entire story.  "I don’t think I added to the misunderstandings. The one depressing conclusion that I did draw was that people were not actually looking for information: They were looking for a reaffirmation of their own beliefs." (And see interview with Rudoren.)

And he complains about being heavily criticized when it emerged that his son had signed up for the IDF--while Bronner still served as bureau chief.  Naturally this was all just another "perfect example to smack us over the head with"--as if there was no other reason for Palestinians to feel NYT coverage was biased.  He reveals that he hoped the could hide his son's move from the world, a gross journalistic ethical sin (not that he admits it):
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.
 And then there's this revealing exchange:
Did anything positive come out of being watched so closely?

I didn’t like it, but I can’t deny there is a certain rush. There is something slightly thrilling about everybody yelling at you; suddenly every word you write is being pored over and looked at it. As writers, we write to be read.

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